Courageous Confessions #6: For Those Who Won't Let Themselves Win
Self-sabotage is an old, familiar frenemy that I just can’t seem to shake.
The voice of my inner saboteur is cunning and sneaky. This is the lie: ‘This thing (whatever it is) it’s not that big of a deal. It doesn’t matter that much.You deserve a break/treat/etc.’
Maybe it’s flirting when you’re married and avoiding emotional intimacy with your husband, or choosing charming abusive, addicted, or unavailable men again and again, or giving yourself away cheap to the only bidder (lowering your own sense value every time). Perhaps it’s wallowing in envy scrolling through social media or indulging in retail therapy, too embarrassed to take it back. It could be abusing your body with substances, blades, burns, or hair pulling. For me, a miserable marriage became so suffocating that I joined a friend on a smoke break, landing me in the quicksand of an addiction I never saw coming.
More than any specific outward behavior, the lies of self-sabotage become our own inner voice until we become our own worst abuser.
Sweet Friend, here’s the sneakier lie I am learning to identify behind the message of the inner saboteur: ‘I don’t really matter that much. I am not worth treating myself well or respecting myself. I deserve to suffer.’
Self-sabotage and shame are constant, if unwelcome, traveling companions. They work to keep us isolated, trapped with our secrets. Eventually, I became desperate enough to get honest. To tell a few trusted friends. A counselor. I was surprised to see less condemnation in their eyes than I found in my own reflection in the mirror. I began to work through the deep sense of unworthiness that led me back repeatedly to what harmed me most.
I take comfort in the apostle Paul’s writing in Romans 7:15-20 (MSG)
‘I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So, if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself... I need something more! If the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.’
Obviously, even for the apostle Paul, the way out is not in willpower, trying harder, accountability partners or sticker charts.
So, in the quiet with the toxic smoke circling around me, penetrating the hair I perfume to hide behind, this truth stands: God is with me in my anger and self-hatred. He is with me in the hurt and pain I run from underneath. The disappointment, grief, and fear. Even the religion I use to beat myself with occasionally.
He whispers names of love and beauty, replacing punishing self-talk and lies of the enemy. He desires me, treasures me, cherishes me. He calls me worthy and the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I am a joint heir with Christ. I am the apple of His eye, His beloved one.
The shame of my secret is wafted away, replaced by the fragrance of grace and the extravagant, unconditional love of my God.