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I Pick Me: Responding with Love

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone that ended with you feeling like less? 

I recall a situation not too long ago between me and a colleague. This person became extremely upset, and began to speak down to me. Instead of responding by speaking up, I let him continue to berate me. I drove home that night questioning what was wrong with me, and why I felt incapable, stupid, and used.

I used to struggle with the idea that as a Christian, we must be overflowing in mercy in all interactions with others. Submission, humility, meekness – these are all words that cross my mind when I am thinking of how to love best in a conflict situation.

What Does Meekness Look Like?

Meekness attempts to leave room for others and learn from them. To be meek is to be patient with others, practicing restraint and selflessness. What meekness is not is allowing others to hurt us, or choosing to stay in a harmful situation.

And as much as others may say hurtful things to us, I’m willing to bet that we say more hurtful things to ourselves. In fact, it’s easier for us to be compassionate towards others than towards ourselves. 

We Have Dignity

We are all dignified and constituted with value by virtue of Christ’s incarnation. All of us carry the responsibility to honour human dignity – including our own. Reverend John J. Coughlin outlines this in his article “Pope John Paul II and the Dignity of the Human Being”:

God’s forgiveness of humanity, which is expressed in the Son’s perfect self-sacrificial love, serves as a testament to the highest degree of human dignity both by revealing the love of God for humanity and by demonstrating the fullest possibility for the human person. (2003)

God’s sacrifice demonstrates the fullest potential for the human person, which means that the only appropriate response to one another is love. Unconditional, self-sacrificial love. Now we know that we cannot love perfectly, but we have a calling to participate in that love to the degree that is possible for us. If we don’t, we risk undermining the dignity of all human beings. 

John Paul II writes that the human person cannot live without this love. In the absence of the “revelation” of love, the human person remains “incomprehensible” to self” (Coughlin, 2003).

Understanding that preserving human dignity requires love, how do we train ourselves to respond with love?

Some important things I learned in therapy:

  1. Managing your thoughts can be a way of protecting yourself. We can begin to change the negative thoughts and emotions we have about ourselves during times of conflict and stress. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) was, and continues to be useful in mind management.
  2. Setting boundaries is a way of honouring human dignity. It is, in fact, necessary that we do so to protect and uphold our own dignity. This can look like learning to say “no”.
  3. Like most important life skills, setting boundaries must be practiced. As any healthy relationship takes time/effort, so does our relationship with ourselves. We must love our neighbours as ourselves after all.

Responding to yourself with love is not allowing others to use or demean us in any way. It means not allowing others to walk all over us, or take their anger out on us. As women on the receiving end, this behaviour may even become normalized, which tends to result in lower self-esteem and higher negative self-talk. We need to have a loving relationship with ourselves in order to extend our hearts genuinely to others. In the context of a conflict or confrontation, it is okay to pick yourself.

Picking yourself can look like: 

  • Suggesting you have the conversation at another time, when you will be in a better headspace.
  • Walking away if you don’t like the way you’re being spoken to. 
  • Telling them that you will not continue the conversation if they continue to disrespect or call you names.
  • Choosing to stay silent, and listen rather than speak.

Although this may not be new information for us, a reminder never hurts. Sometimes it takes more than once to draw your boundary. If we do not show up for ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually, we will struggle to show up for the people in our lives – this we know! Be patient with yourself, and above all remember that we love because He first loved us.

Reference

John J. Coughlin, Pope John Paul II and the Dignity of the Human Being, 27 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 65 (2003-2004). Available at: https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/law_faculty_scholarship/494

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Alyssa Azul Conversion Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth Testimonials

Loving Me Through Him

image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/hiker-hiking-nature-hipster-solo-846094/

Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39) we are told. This is the second greatest commandment. What does loving yourself look like? The answer lies in the first (Matthew 22:37), “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

I realized very quickly that I could not love myself by my own strength. I needed to look beyond myself and my neighbors. My journey towards self-acceptance began in a dark place during my adolescent years.

I was bullied for being short, quiet and more plain-looking than the other kids. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up so I didn’t have the newest, most up-to-date clothes and technology that it seemed everyone else had. You know what they say– “the kids in middle school can be so cruel!” But what was more cruel were the things that I heard in the silence of my own thoughts. I was that 13-year-old girl who buried herself between the pages of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It was a heartbreaking way of coping with the teen angst–you knew that most kids had to endure and attempt to master the awful art of fitting in, yet you felt like nobody could possibly have it worse than you.

The older I got, the more and more I disliked who I was, outside and inside. I was achingly awkward and always treated as a doormat among my “friend” group. I was the last and the least among my peers. I stayed up at night wishing that I could wake up one day and be a completely different person. I didn’t understand why God had made me this way, especially feeling like the fact that I didn’t look like my peers was a punishment of sorts. I hoped and prayed that one day I would get my turn as the heroic female lead. That I would be feminine enough. That I would be strong-willed and fearless. That someday someone else would love me.

At 17 years old I entered into a relationship with someone who showed me that love was…conditional. That loving someone meant you had to compromise your dignity. The idea that “if you give me what I want, or if you measure up, then I’ll love you.” Sadly, I am one of many girls who share this experience of attaining love, whether it be from a boyfriend, friend, or family member.

Because I was young and this relationship was not Christ-centred, I had no idea how to love someone else. I had lost my self-respect, settling for giving my all to someone else in order to prove myself useful and worthy. Sometimes I wonder why God didn’t wake me up from this bad dream. Why didn’t he reveal himself to me as, putting it lightly,  the man I had been searching for all my life.

All this time I was looking to be noticed by God, He was really waiting for me to notice Him first. My insecurities broke me from the inside, enough for God to find His way in. He didn’t embrace me like a heavy storm, but like a soft, gentle rainfall. Often, only through tears did I see Him.

I truly believe that these painful growing experiences really do show you what you are made of. Our brokenness is an offering that brings us closer to God, and ultimately who we are meant to be (Psalm 51:17). It’s like starting life from taking your first steps, finding out which things are stable enough to hold onto, versus the things that falter when you lean on them. I think we often end up choosing the weaker, more unsteady foundations. Like that child, what we need is someone to take our hand and carry us. We are lost sheep, in need of guidance. (Isaiah 40:10-11).

Today, I still have times when I don’t love who I am. Loving myself was never about seeing myself as a new person healed from all the hurts of the past. Loving God showed me that my brokenness had a purpose. It’s about seeing yourself as God sees you, even with the cuts and bruises of our sin. What does loving yourself look like? It looks like mercy. Our journey towards holiness is learning how to love as the Father loves. This doesn’t mean we will be able to love perfectly, but we know that we aren’t able to love ourselves fully without knowing and loving God first.

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Liz The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

I Washed My Face

wash

St. Kateri Tekakwitha slept on a bed of thorns.

St. Rose of Lima cropped her hair and disfigured her skin.

Blessed Alexandrina de Costa refused all food except the Eucharist.

The other day, I got out of bed and washed my face.

This is the most laughable comparison ever made, amirite? I am NOT a saint. Not even close. I did not complete a holy act of mortification. Not even close. To add my name and my deed to the bottom of that list, even for the purposes of contrast, makes me squirm and blush and repent.

Nevertheless, I got out of bed. I washed my face. And it was the start, the millionth start, of my climb out of depression.

When some women become pregnant, God sends them the cross of vomiting, or high blood pressure, or problems with the health of the child. Me, I get the cross that I always get, pregnant or not: another round of depression.  My hormones shift like a Tilt-a-Whirl and my body and brain go spinning away into despair and anxiety and exhaustion and muscle aches. There’s no emergency button to push to make it stop, and no clues as to when the operator will end the ride. Intellectually I know that it can’t last forever (and in my pregnancies, it does end abruptly during the second trimester!). But in those first long weeks, to my heart and soul, it feels like I’m just whirling around in the dark, myself and a baby, with no end in sight. This type of pre-natal depression may happen to as many as one in every five pregnant women. 

depressionOne of the many signs of serious depression is a nagging inner voice that you can’t shut out, whispering to you constantly as you try to live your life: “The things you do aren’t good enough, nothing matters, you aren’t good enough. Achieved something tough? Nobody cares. There’s a million people who’ve done better. Made a mistake? Of course you would. You fail at everything. Don’t care, don’t try, don’t love, hey, don’t even get out of bed! You’re not worth it. Nobody will notice. In fact, the world might be better off if you weren’t around …” 

This monologue, which is really your disease, goes on and on, wearing at you and convincing you and telling you lies. You stop your hobbies, shut out your loved ones, and eventually, you might even stop caring for yourself. Eating right, sleeping, showering, brushing your teeth, all seem pointless and difficult. Besides, you are so tired. And your body aches. So you skip it, again. And the little voice says, ” It doesn’t matter anyway. You don’t matter anyway.”


Asceticism, says the New Advent encyclopedia, “is the practice of the spiritual things, or spiritual exercises performed for the purpose of acquiring the habits of virtue.” It is the denial of of ourselves and our natural desires for the love of God and our neighbor. For most of us, it involves regular habits of prayer and fasting. For some very special saints, like those mentioned above, it also includes physical mortifications that go beyond the norm and require the approval of a spiritual director: radical self-denials of comfort, self-care and daily necessities. Properly practiced and undertaken with obedience, acts of asceticism and self-denial focus us on what’s really important in life: loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength; and loving our neighbor as ourselves. 

But what about us, the seven percent of adults with clinical depression, the one in five women with prenatal depression, the 600,000 women per year with postpartum? What should we do, those whose default is unhealthy self-denial? What should we practice, whose disordered desires are already to go alone, uncared for and unnoticed? How can we draw closer to God through asceticism? What act can we make that isn’t meaningless and worthless to everyone?

you-are-not-aloneThe toughest and most amazing saints didn’t go to great lengths to discipline their bodies because they wanted attention. They didn’t endure discomfort and pain to “be tough” or prove how holy they were. They did it because Jesus called them to be close to him in a radical way. They did it to show their love for God and neighbor. They did it because the temptations which drew them away from Christ were comfort, beauty, and the lull of daily life. So if your temptations, like mine, are to listen to the nagging little voice in your ear that tells you to give up, stop trying, and stop living your God-given life, I humbly submit that you turn the concept of asceticism and mortification on its head. For the millionth time, try again to deny that voice and take care of your mind, body and spirit. If you can’t do it for you, do it for God and your neighbor. No matter what the little voice says, even the smallest, most insignificant act of love matters. It will make a difference. 

So, where St. Kateri slept on a bed of thorns, rest a full eight hours in a warm bed.

Where Blessed Alexandrina ate nothing, eat three square, simple meals a day.

Where Rose of Lima cut her hair, brush yours. Where she scarred her face, get up, take up your cross, and wash.

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}