There was no singular experience that made me realize the staggering depth of my own shame.
Rather, the realization dawned after numerous culminating moments over many years. I always knew self-worth was a struggle I’d face; I grew up in abusive circumstances and I had a great awareness of how sensitive it made me. Yet, I was somehow unaware of just how much I hated myself.
I read old diary entries (and honestly still write new ones) filled with words like disgusting, ruined, and monster. I avoid mirrors, not just because I pick out every physical flaw, but because I can see a tired, battered soul peering back at me. Every failure or misstep turns into sleepless nights of harsh inner monologues and frantic, panicked bursts of energy to try to do better. A mean comment or thoughtless critique unleashes oceans of private tears.
It’s exhausting. It’s even more exhausting because I’m fully aware of how twisted it is, but fighting it all is just so hard.
The severity of my situation matches my specific circumstances. I realize many don’t struggle in the same way I do. However, I believe all of us face shame at some point. We all have moments where we hate ourselves. When these moments come, finding the love of God is a monumental task. And, in spite of what well-intentioned comments may have us believe, it’s rarely as simple as praying to know if God loves you and suddenly feeling better.
As I’ve learned to put shame (and its creator Satan) back in its proper place, I’ve learned a few things about finding God’s love and how to experience it more fully.
Expressions & Manifestations of Love
Love is expressed in a variety of ways. Yet, we often put the creator of love in a box. We limit how we think His love can be made manifest in our lives.
I want to be loved and cherished by God in very specific ways. I want to feel. Something clear and warm and bright. These moments are truly real and possible, but more often than not I’ve found God’s love in the most unexpected places and in the most unexpected ways from the most unexpected bearers. I forget His ways are higher than mine. I know He delights to love me as I want to be loved. But if I don’t look for the unique expressions and manifestations of God’s love in other areas, I miss them.
God may be trying to express His love for you in a way you haven’t considered.
Our world is full of chaos and noise and this can seriously affect our souls. Forcing myself into silent moments of remembrance helps me find strength in the goodness of the past. Looking back, I can see powerful evidence of God’s hand in my life. By sitting in silence, often on my knees, I can draw my heart out to those lost moments. It’s work, painful work, but I’m able to recapture the feelings of love and protection I’ve already experienced.
Even if my heart is too hurt to feel deeply, I find peace in the knowledge of God’s constant guiding hand. God’s love is found in the quiet, still moments of our lives. We can create more moments for Him to reach out to us.
Disconnecting Activity from Worth
Have you ever felt like if you could just do better, life would be better? I have.
If I just could stop being such a foolish, weak thing and do what I’m supposed to do, the clouds would part and this giant bucket of blessings God was withholding would be dumped right on my head.
While sacrifice and obedience bring forth the blessings of heaven, I think it’s important to disconnect your actions from your worth. Surely, God trusts us more when we diligently strive to follow Him. Surely, he’s pleased. We’re able to co-create a more magnificent (and eventually eternal) life with Him when we are righteous. But if we base how much love we get from God on what we do, we will always be disappointed.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf reminds us slowing down is actually the more productive way to regain our spiritual footing when we’re struggling: “My dear brothers and sisters, we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most.”
By focusing on our relationship with God and His truths, rather than a list of things we need to do, we find clarity about our divine nature.
The Gratitude List
My hatred grows hotter at night. In the quiet dark of my bedroom, as I’m trying to sleep, there’s just so much empty space to be filled. As I make endless lists of my failings and cry from year-old-mistakes as if they happened yesterday, the only thing I’ve found brings immediate quiet is gratitude. Without fail, if I force myself to start listing things I’m grateful for, a hush descends in my soul.
The list, no matter how short it is, always grows. On more than one occasion, I’ve only been able to fall asleep with that weary list on my lips. It’s rarely easy to be grateful in the midst of pain, but it is possible. In fact, I feel gratitude is the flower God is able to grow the most quickly in our spiritual gardens. We just need to start with one tiny seed.
Jesus Christ is Love
If you hate yourself right now and are struggling with shame, let these words sink into your soul. You are loved. Any weakness you have, including sin, is not a surprise to God. In fact, He has made every preparation to see you through it, the most important of which is your Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the ultimate evidence of God’s love. Have you invited Jesus Christ into your daily life? Does He permeate your thoughts and influence your actions? If not, consider including Him more in your life. You will find more strength to discern your worth and how God feels about you when you do so.