What I’m Reading Today: Acts 20:1-16
As I’ve mentioned several times in my blog over the years, I am an individual whose approach toward dealing with the world was to adopt something called “The Best Little Boy in the World” approach. What this means is that because of my low self-esteem, I thought that if I presented an image to the world of having it all together (i.e. being perfect), that other folks would HAVE to love me. Once they loved me, THEN I could think about beginning to love myself.
While most folks might think such an approach was flawed, I didn’t. I believed in that approach heart and soul! And on the surface, it seemed to work for many years. I did everything within my power to be perfect, and I won lots and lots of accolades and awards. It seemed as if most folks loved me.
Those signs of love and support from others meant I should have loved myself a great deal, right?
Instead, I because obsessed with maintaining the façade of perfection. I could never, never, NEVER enjoy the accolades or feelings of being loved. Instead, I spent most of my time worrying about whether I could keep it up. I worried that if I slipped up - even once – that someone might discover I wasn’t perfect after all; thereby causing others to quit loving me. That was how sick my thinking was!
So what was the pivotal turning point in my recovery from this flawed way of thinking?
My personal experience of God’s grace. That grace helped me discover that I was loved to the core of my being exactly how I was. That sense of being truly loved was nothing short of transformative for me. Everything – and I mean everything – changed once I realized that simple truth.
It breaks my heart when I go into the world now and see others who have not yet come to this realization: others who struggle with perfectionism and the sense that either they (or others) have to be perfect in order to be loved. I can usually spot such folks in a second because they are HYPER-critical of themselves and others. Sadly, most folks around such people misinterpret the motivation behind their critical nature and respond to the individual by lashing out – something that only fuels the individual’s insecurity and makes matters worse for everyone involved.
So what’s the antidote for breaking this cycle of individual and communal misery?
The antidote – at least in my experience – is found toward the beginning of today’s passage from Acts. In his journey from Ephesus to Macedonia we are told the following about Paul: “Traveling through the country, passing from one gathering to another, [Paul] gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope.”
The antidote is encouragement.
Today, when you encounter someone who is lashing out at the world due to their own pain and frustration, I encourage you to break the cycle and meet their negativity with the most surprising response of all –encouragement. Those words will allow you to leave behind feelings of anger and bitterness, and replace them with the most important feeling of all: hope.
Til next time…