I used to be terrible at self-reflection.  I ran away from it like the plague, convinced that looking at one's actions is just an invitation to fault-finding and criticism that at best simply leads to self-flagellation.  I was defensive.  A lot.

I'd like to say that I completely got over that, but I'd be lying.  I have had enough therapy, not to mention having gained at least some maturity over the years, that I have an appreciation for self-reflection, for self-differentiation, for recalling one's words and deeds for the purpose of dealing with one's stuff.  I know a lot more now about personal accountability and staying relatively calm in the face of sharp emotion and the like.

But I'm not over it. I still find myself tending towards beating myself up for a mistake or second-guessing myself so much that I can't be present to what I need to be present to.  Sometimes I still can't let myself off the hook (even after making amends, if necessary) and move on. Sometimes I'm still pretty defensive.

When I was discerning my call to the priesthood, and a wise mentor told me that what they/we were looking for in that process was not faults that must be eliminated but the stumbling blocks we have repeatedly come up against.  She said that these were things that we may well keep stumbling over for all our lives.  The point was to recognize them as our particular stumbling blocks and learn what to do when we come upon them yet again.  We weren't expected to be perfect.  We were expected to be self-aware.

Well, great. That was truly helpful, and I have come a long way.  But sometimes I am still unaware, blind, blind-sided by some old bugaboo.

The thing I try to remember (with varying degrees of success) is that God loves me anyway. That I may need to right a wrong or make amends or fix something, but I don't have to win God's love. My salvation is not at stake if I mess up, if I fall in the trap I "should have known" was out there.

Knowing that I am loved anyway gives me the courage to look at myself and how I am in the world without being afraid of what I will see.  We are made in the image of God, and what I will see is connected to the Divine somehow, if I can make space for God and God's claim on my life in the midst of my vortex of self-criticism.  God is there in the mess of my mess, loving me anyway.  If nothing else, I want to be able to see that, always, in my self-reflection.


Ray Barnes said…
It sounds to me as though you know yourself pretty well Penny, and that is at least half the battle.
I know I don't know you personally, but from what I have read in your blog, you seem to be a well rounded peronality.
From the photo I gather you have also mastered walking on water. No mean feat.
Thanks, Ray. Some days I am better than others, as we all are. But I'm not able to walk on water. That's actually sand!
Ray Barnes said…
Oops! Good sight not, as Yoda would say.
Perpetua said…
Penny, I think we all wish that once recognised we could deal with our personal and particular stumbling blocks once and for all. From my 66 years I can tell you that isn't the case, but I do find that age has helped me to be kinder to myself.
Thanks, Perpetua. Mellowing sure helps!
Bill Bynum said…
Parts of this post and your post on Loss seem to me to be related. Your post on Loss got me to thinking about my relationship with my father. I could never seem to meet his expectations. He couldn't figure out what to do with a son who preferred reading to goat roping. My relationship to God came much later, long after my dad had died. It was hard for me to get used to the idea that God loved me anyway, no matter how I turned out -- there were no prior expectations. This is indeed part of the Good News of God in Christ.
Bill, your description speaks so eloquently to the limitations of using father-imagery (or mother-imagery for that matter) in how we think/talk about God. Many people have/had difficult relationships with parents, parents who rejected them or didn't protect them or withheld love from them, which experiences then color their thinking about and relationship with God. Thank you for your eloquent and poignant comment.