Some Overdue Self-Reflection


Something happened earlier this week. The actual circumstance is not important; what is important is the revelation I had, which was that I am not good at being a good person.

Now before you start thinking that this is just my sad attempt to get some pity, let me be clear. I am not fishing for compliments. No, this is more a public declaration that I have a lot to work on, and I feel that saying it out loud instead of just to myself will be a step in the right direction.

My shortcomings seldom take an outward form, so many people who don't know me well might assume I have it all together. They would be horribly mistaken. It feels like I've struggled my entire life with the same issues---impatience, insane competitiveness, selfishness, anxiety, and (this one's the worst) pride. I realize all this about myself, and I try to be better. I'll do something nice and think, Wow, that was really unselfish. You really are the best at this whole unselfish thing. Way to go, you.

All the while, I fail to realize that my self-congratulation is just me being extremely prideful.

Clearly I've learned nothing.

January 1 of this year I made it a goal to read through the Bible in a year, and I am still on schedule to be finished in December. I have a sheet that tells me what to read, and I mark it off each day. I've only missed a handful so far, and I actually am now so used to reading at night that it feels weird when I occasionally skip a day. (By the way, skipping due to tiredness doesn't actually accomplish anything, since I just have to read double the next day to catch up.) But most nights, as I read, I write down a verse that jumped out at me...for whatever reason. (Unless, of course, I'm reading Leviticus or Chronicles or something. Now there's a way to make me instantly fall asleep.)

Every so often, I go back through my journal and read the verses I wrote down. It's interesting to see what I happened to find worthy of noting, and I think it also says a lot about what I'm struggling with at that particular time.

The general feeling I get from the verses I've written is that I struggle with an evil heart. Wow, that looks even harsher to see in type than it sounded in my head. But it's true. I seek validation from other people instead of God. I judge people instantly. I don't like sharing. I want everything to be on my schedule, my way, and I don't like to deviate from the plan. Lack of planning stresses me out, which points to the larger issue of a lack of faith. I hate losing, which is due to my inflated ego. Thus, I have to ask myself some questions:

Do I not trust that God will take care of me? Do I understand that I simply cannot fix myself with his help? Am I lying to myself when I say that I do want his help? Do I seek affirmation and acceptance from God alone?

This week I did some major self-reflection, and the answers to my questions, if I was to be completely honest with myself, were not good.

So where does that leave me?

I was brought to a place where my pride was stripped bare. I am just like all the other people who sin--even if my sin is slightly less public than theirs. That does not make it (my sin) less harmful to me and those I come in contact with.

Last year I read a devotional book. It had most of the typical Christian stuff, but there was something in it that has stuck with me ever since. The author listed something she struggled with, let's say being jealous. So she prayed and prayed for God to help her to not be envious. Later that same week, she found herself in a situation where she became extremely envious, and she wondered why God hadn't helped her. Then she realized that praying for God to help with a certain issue of the heart does not mean that she will never find herself in a situation where she encounters that issue. Instead, it would make sense for God to continue to bring up situations where jealousy might arise, because otherwise how could it be practiced and improved upon?

So that's it, then. Practice. (Ugh. I hate practice.)

I am not perfect, nor will I ever be, but I can recognize different times in my day or week as opportunities to practice those disciplines at which I often fail. Instead of griping about the long line at the store, I can use it as an opportunity to practice patience. When someone asks for a slice of the delicious peach I just cut, practice being unselfish by handing them the biggest slice. If I am beat in a board game or on the tennis court, I can practice being a humble, gracious loser.

Maybe some day, with a lot of prayer, I can get it right. After all, doesn't practice make perfect?

"And he [Jesus] said, 'It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come'" (Mark 7:20-21).

Create in me a clean heart, O God...
meggo said...

Great post, A. Calls to my mind the hymn "God be Merciful to Me" and the third verse.
"I am evil, born in sin;
Thou desirest truth within.
Thou alone my Savior art,
Teach Thy wisdom to my heart;
Make me pure, Thy grace bestow,
Wash me whiter than the snow."
The good news is, He is.

Amanda said...

I like that last line: "The good news is, He is." So true. So good to remember.

Hannah said...

Well said. It's so hard to look at what we're doing wrong, but I've been thinking about the evil heart lately too and have been realizing how important it is to focus on all the good God does/is doing. And there's grace.

Anonymous said...

Just remember - his grace is sufficient. :)

Good post. Self-reflection is never a bad thing . . . unless you're me and you do it way too often and end up overthinking things and being self-deprecating because of it. There should be a limit. :)

Love you!