Making Peace with My Worst Enemy
Sitting with my thoughts can be really, really annoying at times. When I get into a depressive, worrying mood, a vicious cycle begins where I worry deeply about something, almost always my relationships. I beat myself up for this worry, because it causes me to say ridiculous things that I later regret, because they are completely untrue, and it irritates me that I frustrate and even hurt the people I hold most dear. I harshly scold myself for saying such stupid statements, and I worry that I have permanently ruined my relationship with the people I offended, and the cycle continues. I always end up excessively apologizing, which only annoys the people to whom I’m directing the apology, because I can’t stop apologizing, because I can’t stop feeling guilty. Going through this is the most emotionally torturous experience that I endure and sometimes it happens frequently enough to make me feel pretty depressed for weeks on end. Because it is a process that hurts both me and my relationships, it makes me hate myself for doing it. I become my worst enemy. I do nothing but hate and fail to appreciate one of God’s children.
At the Salvation Army church in Chester, the pastor, Major McKoy (in the Salvation Army, church leadership is assigned the names of military ranks), gave a sermon about how we treat our enemies. He described how when he was a teenager, someone beat him up. He really hated that man, and if he met him today, his impulse would be to hate him and beat him up, too. But instead of giving in to this impulse, Major McKoy preached, we should forgive our enemies and let go of the hate we may harbor for them.
As I listened to Major McKoy’s sermon, I thought about the enemies I had in my life and whether I had forgiven them or not. As cheesy as it sounds, I realized that of all the people I’ve hated and scorned in my life, the most consistent hatred I’ve felt has always been for myself. And as he talked about forgiving that enemy in your life, I wondered, how could I forgive myself when it was me who was causing the pain and yet not stopping it?
When I asked friends or family what I should do to deal with my worry, they always told me that I simply needed to improve my self-esteem. Then I look around in society and am inundated with the message that I am beautiful just for being me, that I, just like everyone else, can achieve anything. I constantly see magazines, advertisements, TV shows, and music lyrics that tell me that I am special and wonderful.
But this message has always rung hollow to me. How could any of the producers of this media know that I am beautiful or special, when they have never met me, and have no idea who I am? They don’t even know what I look like or what my heart looks like. They have no credibility when they say that I am beautiful inside and out. Only God knows me completely. Only God knows my soul, my face, my body, my deeds. God is the only one in this universe who can truly tell me that I’m beautiful. So why would it make any sense to go to anyone other than Him to figure out how to improve my self-esteem and finally rid myself of crippling worry for good?
Before I came to Swarthmore, I had never really studied the Bible. As a result, I never realized that God addressed worrying and that it was something He recognized and could help us with. During my freshman orientation week, I attended the Swarthmore Christian Fellowship’s first freshman Small Group of the semester, a Bible study specifically for freshmen. The passage that we studied for that session was Matthew 6:25-34, and it was a blessed experience for me because this passage spoke directly about worrying. Some of the most salient verses of this passage for me were verses 28-30: “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” I realized I had absolutely no faith in God to take care of me and everything that I worried about.
When I prayed for God to take all my worries out of my mind and to give my mind rest, I gained several insights that have slowly but steadily helped me to worry less. First, I learned that talking to someone about my worries would be really helpful. By doing so, I have discovered how my past and upbringing have shaped my everyday thoughts and led them to be so destructive. I also learned that I have to give God control over my problems. I have to admit that I can’t fight the worries and criticisms in my head without His help. To put this into practice, I have done my best to pray as soon as I feel the worrisome thoughts surfacing. I don’t feel better instantly when I do this, but after a little while God graces me with clarity of thought, which allows me to rationalize my worries and realize that they are not as threatening as I thought they were.
By bringing myself closer to Jesus, I realize that I’m not a horrible, hurtful person and that I am not doomed to mess up my relationships. But if I only focused on why I am a good person, I wouldn’t realize the potential I could reach by reaching out to God. The reason we can’t find that potential on our own, whether we tend towards self-deprication or self-aggrandizement, is because we don’t have that potential on our own. We only find it through Jesus. As He said in John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”
Zoë is an honors major in Art History. She is extremely excited about the latest Nancy Drew computer game to be released on May 20. She loves video-taping her yorkie puppy, Slinky, running in slow-motion, almost as much as she loves art.
anxiety, beauty, faith, forgiveness, guilt, hate, love