Thoughts on Love, Fear, Shame and God – Part 1
by Robert L. Gottlieb, LPC
“Our society also leads us astray with conditions of worth. As we grow up, our parents, teachers, peers, the media, and others, only give us what we need when we show we are “worthy,” rather than just because we need it. We get a drink when we finish our class, we get something sweet when we finish our vegetables, and most importantly, we get love and affection if, and only if, we ‘behave!’” – Carl Rogers
We often allow our self-worth and value to be dictated to us by society, those close to us or even that guy we’ve never met before. However, for each of those entities there is a common denominator for determining our self-worth and value: our performance.
Now, as any therapist will tell you, we cannot control what others think of us; we only have control over ourselves. So, while I can’t control what society, those close to me, or that guy I’ve never met before thinks about me, I do have control over what I think of me.
The issue comes when we ourselves make self-acceptance conditional. “If I could only lose 30lbs”…”when I get that promotion”…”when she likes me”…”once I’m making 125k a year with a company car”…”when I’ve got all my ducks in a row”…THEN I will be worthy of ____ (Love? Acceptance? Joy? Freedom?).
Our biggest need is not to be seen differently by society, those close to us, that guy we’ve never met before or to reach that mystical goal at which point everything will be alright — our biggest need is to be rescued from ourselves.
Making self-worth and value conditional sets us up for failure every time. For example, we’ve all experienced a performance review in which thirty good qualities were addressed, and one area for improvement was mentioned. If you’re anything like me, then you know that, when you walk away from that review, what sticks in your mind isn’t the thirty positive qualities — but that one area for improvement.
The truth of the matter is that we are never 100% ready or perfect. We can try all we want, but only God is perfect. That doesn’t mean we’re not worthy of acceptance and love.
No one is perfect, so why pretend to be? It doesn’t help anyone, especially the person pretending. Jesus loves us and He does it perfectly despite our sins and frequent rejection of Him.
Continued in “Thoughts on Love, Fear, Shame & God – Part 2”, coming soon.