I’ve heard it said that it takes six weeks to incorporate a new habit, six weeks of practicing that behavior consistently. Well, I must be a slow learner because it took me four years to purge sugar from my diet, and it is taking a lifetime to stop beating myself up when I make a mistake. I just did it again! I called myself a “slow learner.”
I don’t like to fail. I don’t think anyone does. Failure, even a small botch, feels humiliating. When I mess up, my first instinct is to berate myself. Self-flagellation is nothing new. It was a part of early Christian history, especially in monasteries and convents. Even Martin Luther whipped himself as a means of atoning for sin. I don’t whip myself when I find I have disobeyed God or made a foolish mistake, but I fall into the unproductive habit of self-blame. My instinct is to waste mental energy shaming myself; making myself feel less-than; forgetting that I am a forgiven and renewed child of God.
What if, instead of engaging in unproductive mental self-flagellation, I turned immediately to God in prayer, confessed my shortcoming, and asked for help in making things right? What if I trusted the promise of Romans 8:38-39 that “…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus?” Perhaps Paul’s list of ‘nors’ should include nor embarrassment.
What if, instead of getting discouraged by problems and embarrassed by mistakes, I remembered that God loves me no matter what blunders I make and stands ready to show me how to solve problems? What if I focused on my innumerable blessings, turning my attention from miniscule earthly issues to the grand scheme of God’s purposes?
I’m not advocating ignoring issues and hoping they’ll go away. Denial never solved a problem or made a situation better. Rather, I’m trying to develop the habit (resolution, if you will) of facing life head-on and dealing with embarrassing mistakes without falling into a blame-and-shame funk.
After all these years, I’m still working to develop healthy responses to stress. Worry, self-doubt, and self-flagellation are not healthy habits. If God has already conquered death, how can I allow myself to be discouraged even for a moment by life’s inevitable challenges?
Another verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds me to put problems and perceived failures into perspective: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).” In other words, God has my back; God is in my corner; and every negative experience provides a teachable moment with the potential for growing in wisdom.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com