When You Don’t Love Yourself

For some reason, whenever we encounter the Great Commandment—love God, love your neighbor, love yourself—we have no problem with two out of the three. We understand that we should love God, whether we do or not. We agree that we should love our neighbors, but again, we may not actually do it. We all AGREE we should.

It’s that last part—loving ourselves—that gives us the most trouble. For one thing, we’re told from a very early age that we shouldn’t think too highly of ourselves. Anything we said that was even close to self-affirmation was quickly criticized as being conceited or even narcissistic. After being roundly condemned by our parents, teachers, and friends for being “too big for our britches,” we quickly gave up.

Worse than that, however, with this lack of a healthy ego, we easily fall into self-condemnation and self-hatred. Suicide is the extreme form of this, but honestly, a lot of us commit a lot of different suicides—relationships, careers, success. We’ll blow it all up because we don’t think we deserve to have good things in our lives.

This isn’t the way Jesus wants us to live.

Following Christ means having a healthy understanding and acceptance of yourself. How? First, by understanding you bear the IMAGE OF GOD. There is something about you that reveals the greatest Artist of all—God Himself. Sometimes, it’s the signature of the Artist that gives the work it’s value. You’ve been signed by God Himself.

Second, Christ died for you.

How can there be a greater statement of our value than the life of God’s Son? Whatever our failures, flaws, and sins…Christ has covered them all. He did it because He loves; this is where our worth is centered. We are loved. Unconditionally, deeply, authentically loved by Jesus Christ who in His love for us, calls us to our best selves.

It really doesn’t matter what the world says about you. It doesn’t even matter what we say to ourselves. What matters is what Jesus says about us—and He says we’re beloved, forgiven, restored, called…we are His.

And you can trust Jesus. He always tells the truth.

When the Gift Only Makes Matters Worse

It happens more times than you would think. A husband rushes out at the last minute and buys an expensive gift to give to his wife. He rushes home from work, gives her the store wrapped present, and then…she’s disappointed.

She’ll try to hide it. She’ll tell him the gift’s beautiful, but he knows her too well. He can read her. He knows she’s trying just a little too hard. He’ll get angry, complaining that nothing he ever does is good enough.

And he’ll completely misread her disappointment. She didn’t want another gift. She wanted him.

Here’s the mistake most men make. We get consumed with our lives, whether it’s work or some hobby. And then we feel really guilty when the holidays come around. So, we run out and spend way too much money on a gift and try to make up for all of the times when we were distracted by something else. We promise ourselves next year will be different but then, next year becomes this year, and we’re running into the mall at the last minute one more time.

And here’s what we as men don’t get about giving gifts to our wives. What our wives really want is us. They want our full attention, our total devotion, and our full energy. Anything less than that is well, a disappointment. And if a gift isn’t backed up by a love lived out every day, then the gift is a disappointment as well.

Maybe the best thing some of us guys can give our wives is a little honesty. Maybe we sit down over dinner and say something like “This hasn’t been a good year for me, but I’m going to do better.” Then, give her a calendar with dates, weekend getaways, and vacations already penciled in…it’ll be the one thing she wants more than anything.

Relax. It’ll be a lot cheaper than jewelry. The only thing it will cost you is a little time.

Two Great Lies You’ve Been Told

The first lie is: “You can be anything that you want to be…” Well, no you can’t. I live in Nashville, TN. There are a lot of people who have moved to Music City because somebody told them they could sing. And they can sing—to a point.

But they can’t sing well enough to get a record deal. The sad thing is they would do anything to have a career in music, but it’s not going to happen. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of wanting it. You have to have the talent, the natural giftedness. If you don’t have the talent, it’s not going to happen. It’s just that simple.

And this happens in all kinds of careers. I have a friend who just signed to play football with a major university. He’s 6’8” and he weighs about 300 pounds. I would give anything to have been able to play football, but, believe it or not, I’m just too small and too slow.

Desire can do a lot of things, but it can’t make you faster.

This leads to the second big lie we’re told: “You can be anything you want to be if you’re willing to work hard.” Well, again, no you can’t. Like I said, standing next to my friend celebrating as he signed a football scholarship was a powerful reminder that no matter how hard I worked I wouldn’t grow taller or faster.

It’s the same feeling I get when I hear some of my friends play and sing great music. No matter how hard I try and no matter how hard I work, I’ll never be able to play like that.

The bad news is this: we’re human, and as humans, we’re limited.

Now, here’s the good news: we can be everything Christ created us to be.

All of us have gifts. All of us have talents. All of us were created on purpose for a purpose in God’s kingdom. Now, here’s the best news of all. When you realize that and find the great purpose for which you were created, you’ll find something that brings you the greatest joy you’ve ever known. In fact, it’s what you would have wanted if you had known to want it in the first place.

No, we can’t be anything we want to be. We can be everything we were created to be. We can be everything God wants us to be…which is exactly what we should want in the first place.

The Priceless Gift of Your Full Attention

I call it “multi-tasking.” Jeannie calls it “not paying attention.” As much as I hate to admit it, she’s right. I’d like to think I can ________ (read the newspaper, watch a football game, read a book) AND listen to her at the same time. The simple truth is, I can’t. Nobody can. For all of our gadgets that promise to allow us to do several things at the same time, the human brain simply isn’t geared for multi-tasking. Study after study shows that while we can get more things done, we do them markedly worse than if we had simply done them one at a time.

Add to this another reality—listening, true listening, is hard.

In fact, to actively listen you have to pay attention with your whole body. Your eyes have to watching for clues in body language. Your ears have to be alert to subtle changes in tone and pitch that convey meaning to language. Your body has to be tuned in to sense any fear or anger accompanying the words. This takes a lot of effort. There’s nothing casual about listening, really listening, to someone.

So, here’s what I’m learning.

When Jeannie starts talking to me, I mute the TV or I put down what I’m reading. I look at her. I turn my body toward her. I give her my full attention. I watch her face. I listen to the tone of her voice. I watch what she’s doing with her hands. Every part of her is trying to tell me something. I want to be sure I get it. I want to be sure I get it right, and I want to be sure I get it all.

That’s why I’m learning to give Jeannie my full attention.

Now, I’m not perfect at this; but I’m trying, and the times I get it right are subtle, but real, victories. There’s no one more important to me than Jeannie, and it’s in those moments when she has my full attention that she knows it best from me.

It’s funny—experts are now telling us that it’s no longer about time management.

It’s about “attention management.” Wow. Jeannie’s been telling me that for years. Please don’t mention this to her. She’ll think she’s an expert and will be impossible to live with.