Sister Brynlee Ashton shared her struggle to change the self-condemnation in her relationship with God into a motivating force for action and positive change. This is a subject I’ve pondered a lot and I really enjoyed the way she shared her discovery and results.
Let’s talk, shall we?
My brain does a wonderfully terrible thing! Whenever I don’t do something I’m supposed to, or I don’t do something up to the standard I set for myself, my brain instantly condemns itself. (Sounds fun, huh?)
I thought this was normal. I thought everyone felt this way, and I was right to some extent. My Dad told me most people suffer from some self-condemnation, but the genes we have made it worse in my family’s brains.
However, because of the way I have lived, and continue to live my life, I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and His grace. I know through Him I can become better, I can perform better.
Most nights I talk to God about my day and how I performed that day. If I didn’t feel I did well, I would tell God, because I know it’s only through communication with Him I can access His grace.
Because my self-condemnation has been extremely bad these many weeks, my prayers have sounded something like, “Hey, I know I’m the worst—I didn’t do scripture study like I was supposed to today” … “I’m not the missionary/person/friend You or my family wants me to be, but I’m trying” … “My language study wasn’t as it could’ve been. I’m sorry I haven’t made you proud today.”
After weeks of praying like this I found no progress in my performance. I was confused and a little upset. What am I missing? I’m telling God where I need to improve, yet I don’t feel His help in my improvement.
I asked my Dad about this, and he helped me understand a little more about confession and God’s love.
He told me two things:
1. You are not the judge.
2. You cannot confess with self-condemnation.
Let’s go through these.
You are not the judge. Heavenly Father is the judge. You cannot officially judge yourself or your performance. You cannot do this because you and your brain are fallen. You and your brain are not perfect and because of that, you cannot perfectly judge you or your performance.
In my prayers, I cannot call myself “the worst,” or “a bad missionary/person/friend,” because I am incapable of correctly judging myself. Neither you nor I have the right to judge ourselves because we are not capable of judging ourselves perfectly and correctly.
You cannot confess with self-condemnation. Confession is a way to tell God you’ve messed up, to tell God you’re ready to try again. Confession (or repentance) is supposed to be motivating. It’s supposed to be a turning point. When you mix self-condemnation with confession, you take away the motivation.
I often thought (and still think) the opposite would happen. I would think to myself “if I beat myself up, then I’ll do better next time.”
WELL, I WAS WRONG.
Let’s think about this from a child’s point of view. If you’re trying to teach a child to walk and every time they mess up you yell at them and belittle them, they’ll be too afraid to keep working.
Our brains work the same way. We need to be kind and uplifting. We need to celebrate the small moments and accomplishments.
In my prayers, if I self-condemn, I am not creating the motivating environment I need to work towards being better.
My Dad explained why we do this to ourselves. He said we damage ourselves in order to prepare ourselves for the damage we believe God will do to us. We have this idea in our head where we think we can yell at ourselves in a way that tells God, “Go ahead! Say what you wanna say! It can’t be worse than what I’ve already said to myself.”
However, GOD DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY. God DOES NOT condemn us. God DOES NOT shame us. God DOES NOT belittle us. God DOES celebrate our small moments. God DOES congratulate us for our small accomplishments.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have been taught since I was a child that God is our loving Heavenly Father. I don’t think I fully understood that principle until now. Even now, I’m sure I don’t understand it all, but I understand it a little more.
No matter how many times I mess up, miss a scripture study, or lack in language, God will never condemn me.
So I’m working on changing my prayers, on rewiring my brain. It’s no small task, and it will take time, but it’s worth it. I’m rewriting the words I say in my prayers.
Here are examples:
• Instead of, “Hey, I know I’m the worst, I didn’t do scripture study like I was supposed to today” I will say, “I didn’t study today.”
• Instead of, “I’m not the missionary/person/friend You or my family wants me to be, but I’m trying” I will say, “I am trying and that is good.”
• Instead of, “My language study wasn’t as it could’ve been, I’m sorry I haven’t made you proud today.” I will say, “I didn’t study the language well today.”
It has been difficult doing this. Many times I have found myself cutting myself off because I am saying things I should not say. Many times I have to start my sentences over.
It’s difficult, but it is working. I feel more motivated. I feel excited. I feel hopeful.
Because of my knowledge of God, I know I can change. Because of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, I can accomplish what I previously thought was impossible.
So, anyway, here’s me giving myself a much-deserved thumbs up, and a tweet by Hank Smith that came in clutch this week.
Disclaimer: this is not a post fishing for compliments. Please do not comment about how great you think I actually am, because in the end that’s not going to help right now.
On the flip side, this post was made to let people know they are not alone, to bring comfort or hope to someone who may be struggling with similar things, and to share my testimony of The Living Christ. I am forever grateful for Him.