If I wanted to, I could write my name in the dust on my fireplace mantle. In fact, by utilizing all the dusty surfaces in my living room, I could probably write the entire Gettysburg Address, if I could remember what comes after “Four score and seven years ago.”
Admittedly, my house is dusty. But it doesn’t stop there. My car needs to be vacuumed. My rose beds need to be weeded. My office clutter needs to be organized, and I haven’t swept my patio in weeks.
I am never caught up. Like a racecar driver who is twelve laps down, I keep going in circles, with no hope of winning.
Sometimes my unaccomplished to-do list overwhelms me. It starts to represent who I am: a failure. Worse, it robs me of the joy and peace I should feel as an abundantly blessed child of God.
When I decried my situation to a close friend, she told me I need to “get off my own back.” Despite the fact that this statement presents a ridiculous oxymoron, it was advice that warranted consideration.
Admittedly, I do berate myself for my shortcomings and perceived failures. Doesn’t everyone? Am I wrong to want to do better and accomplish more?
No, I am not wrong in seeking to improve. But continual self-scolding never leads to improvement. It leads to misery, disappointment, and despair. What kind of witness for Christ is a miserable, disappointed, and despairing disciple?
The Scriptures admonish me to be kindhearted, generous, longsuffering, and patient. I try to be all those things in my relationships with other people. But possibly God wants me to extend those same loving courtesies to myself. After all, how can I obey His command to “love my neighbor as myself” when I am self-condemning?
Life experiences have taught me that criticizing other people is not an effective way to bring about good changes in them. Yet, I continue to aim criticism at myself, hoping it will motivate me to do better.
“Getting off my own back” requires me to look at my life from a different viewpoint. It prompts me to consider the possibility that my dusty shelves and neglected rose beds are not necessarily proof that I am lazy or inefficient. Maybe they simply indicate that I am choosing to devote my time to other matters.
If I spend several hours writing a Christ-centered article or a whole day nurturing my grandchildren, I inevitably leave other tasks undone. But possibly it is when I am writing or nurturing that God does His best work in me. He uses me to produce more substantial results than a dust-free house or a weed-free garden.
Today, instead of being on my own back, I will try being on my own side (another oxymoron, I admit). I will cheer for me, celebrate my victories, and forgive my failures. Today, I will choose to treat myself not as an enemy but as a friend. Today, I will love myself as I love my neighbor.