In the month of April, a month after being laid off, I was able to attend our church’s Kairos weekend. It is a part of Freedom Ministries. Over two days, you learn to hear from God. You learn to ask God questions about lies you’ve believed and when they started. Replacing lies with truth is the key to freedom.
What I didn’t expect was for God to talk to me about self-loathing.
The next week I went through the leader training for Freedom Ministries, a five-day seminar. The purpose was to teach leaders how to lead people through Freedom, much like what was covered in Kairos.
It was there that God talked to me about performance.
Before I go on, I must say that I am not an expert on the issues of self-loathing or performance. But in this stage of unemployment (the first month), God wanted to get at a foundational lie I believed—a lie I didn’t even know was there. Both self-loathing and performance had their root in the same thing. Fear. I didn’t know my real identity in Christ.
Lies started in the garden in the book of Genesis. Satan lied to Eve and told her God was withholding good things from her. He convinced her she could be like God by knowing good and evil if she just ate from the one tree God had forbidden (Genesis 3:4-5). When she believed that lie, she forgot her identity. She had a perfect relationship with God and Adam before she “knew everything.” She was already like God, having been made in his image.
Your identity needs to be restored to God’s original plan.
When we don’t know who we are and who we belong to, we go to sources other than God for affirmation. When we receive praise, we risk thinking well of ourselves and not giving glory to God. When we do poorly, we either blame others or secretly endure shame. When we think we do well and are not recognized by others, we can adopt a victim mentality and either try to perform better or become self-righteous. You see, not knowing your identity can produce a chain reaction that leads to a whole other mess of issues.
Your identity is not dependent on your performance.
We perform to get approval from sources that don’t feed us or sustain us. When we fail, we hate ourselves because no one else is at fault for the lack of performance. We try to learn more so we can perform better, but continued failure makes us more angry at ourselves because we should be able to “get it” after more knowledge. Often we use knowledge to replace prayer. We use hard work to replace waiting and trusting. What to do and what not to do becomes the rule book for great performance. There are blogs and books written on what to do and what not to do. We are surrounded by fruit from that same tree!
When it’s in the name of ministry … all the more reason to perform better. The Scripture for over-working is “take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Without knowing it, we end up performing for God and seeking His approval for our works. Works aren’t bad, but they aren’t necessary to receive His love. Works don’t define us. (I’m glad for that because even on my best day, my works don’t trump the work done on the cross. And my worst day doesn’t define who I am from that day forward.) When God doesn’t reward us with answers to our prayers we can feel disappointed by God. “Don’t you know how hard I work for you? Why are you withholding from me?” Sounds like a lie from the garden.
When we start trusting in the Lord’s ability to provide instead of our ability to perform we are living like heirs who know their identity.
Your identity has no room for self-loathing.
Self-loathing keeps us from being transparent. It says, “If anyone really knew my fears or weak points, they’d be disappointed in me. They wouldn’t want to be my friend or promote me at work.” But we need to learn to love ourselves the way God loves us and see ourselves as God sees us.
Self-loathing keeps us feeling insignificant. We develop survival skills (performance) to self-protect, self-validate and even self-promote, but those skills only work if someone else in authority over us agrees to protect, validate or promote. Man will always disappoint us in these areas. The goal in finding agreement is to avoid the pain and fear that you will never be enough. But when God is the protector, validator and promoter, and the source of all affirmation, then it doesn’t matter when others come against you. You know your significance!
When we start believing who God says we are instead of what and who others say we are, we begin living like heirs who know their identity.
Who do you agree with?
I didn’t have my identity in my job, but I realized I’d given the power of my identity to others instead of to God. What “they” said mattered more than it should have. It was in this first month of unemployment that God began to unravel words spoken to me, about me and over me that He didn’t agree with. I was concerned about being unteachable by disagreeing with what others said. But, I spent the month asking God what His thoughts are on many, many things. He revealed the lies and replaced it with his truth. To agree with Him was to be teachable. For me, self-loathing and performance were tied together.
We either believe and agree with God or we believe and agree with the enemy. It’s that cut and dried. If Satan can keep us distracted by knowledge and driven by performance, we will fall into his trap: We live in fear of disappointing others; we hate ourselves; we secretly blame God for not making us smarter, more talented etc. If we don’t feel loved and accepted by others or by God, we fall into self-loathing. This is just what Satan wants! We get tangled in everything but what God has to say. It is at this point that we don’t believe we are who God says we are. If we don’t know our identity, we will never reach our destiny and destroy the works of the enemy.
Jesus came so we would be redeemed to the original design of God. When the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is presented, let’s choose the tree of life.
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