When I get really depressed or upset about something, certain things that are important to me completely lose priority. One of those things is washing my face before I go to bed. It’s very rare that I succumb to my inner-laziness and rebel against my self-made rules. I hate waking up with yesterday’s makeup and goo still on my face. Even after I wash it the next morning, my makeup doesn’t go on as smooth and my eyelashes are still wrinkly or creased in wayward positions. It’s a safe bet that if my face is a mess, my heart is a mess too.
Why do I do that?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. In my quest to become more self-aware, I’m trying to find the root of some of my questionable behaviors that may seem innocent but are too deeply seeded to ignore.
Why do we neglect ourselves when we are depressed? Is it possibly an unintentional outward expression of how we feel on the inside? For me, it’s washing my face… and shopping. I shop when I’m sad. [Meh, who am I kidding? I shop just to shop. We’ll save that for another post.] For someone else, it might be abusing a substance that we know isn’t good for us, ice cream not excluded. I mean, yeah it’s good right now but that constipation is going to get you tomorrow after eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s. We have all intentionally done things to make ourselves feel worse. It’s like we bully ourselves just so we can play the victim.
Regardless of how we do it, why do we kick ourselves when we are already down?
We wouldn’t do that to someone else. Well, hopefully we wouldn’t because we shouldn’t because it’s mean. [Insert flush-faced emoji here!] All self-incrimination aside, we need to figure out where this behavior comes from. Is it more than just a bad habit?
It’s a spiritual thing.
As humans we have so many tendencies that are much deeper than we realize. God gave us emotions and the appropriate emotional response to match. We may not all have the same reaction to a situation, but all of our reactions come from what’s in our heart.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”
-2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)
As Christians, it is our responsibility to question whether our behavior is serving God or serving our flesh. Is this an appropriate emotional reaction, or is it a self-glorifying emotional reaction? When we dwell in the injustice of a situation, we are serving our self. Think about it… self-pity, self-sacrifice, self-sabotage, selfishness, etc. It’s all centered around our priority of self. Focusing on what we believe we deserve is a trap. How can we deserve so much when we truly deserve so little?
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
-Galatians 5:16-26 (NIV)
We are born self-centered. As a mom, I can’t tell you how many times I hear the phrase, “That’s not fair!” on a daily basis. [Ugh. So annoying.] Too bad it’s not just a kid thing. Even as an adult, I feel that way sometimes. I think we all do because being able to “deny the desires of the flesh” is an intentional practice that can only take place once we’ve completely died to self.
How do we resist the urge to wallow in self-pity when we feel like we’ve been mistreated?
There’s more than one way to do it. Here are a few ways to serve the spirit when your flesh is dying for the pity party it’s never going to get!
Change positions! (I like how you think, but I’m not talking about that kind of position!) Look at your situation from a completely different angle. This is for all of you over-analyzers out there, myself included. For example, finding out your friend from church was talking about you behind your back is usually a result of insecurity or jealousy. It’s a reflection of brokenness on their end, not yours. Just don’t forget that we’re all broken :)
Worship while you wash! Don’t JUST wash your face! Put on worship music, wash your face, exfoliate and put on a face mask! While you’re transforming into The Hulk, spend a few minutes in prayer and wait to hear from God.
Don’t. Don’t yell. Don’t call someone up and tell them what you REALLY think about them. Don’t respond or react immediately. Just don’t. Resist your natural urge to protect your ego. Wait and pray. Write in your journal or write a letter, just don’t send it to anyone!
We are supposed to love ourselves. We just need to love God more. We need to trust that He is good and whatever suffering we’re experiencing is going to strengthen our faith. God won’t test our faithfulness without showing us His. He is our comforter, and He wants us to lean into Him. If you’re going to throw a pity-party anyway, make sure He’s your only guest!
[Side note: I see so many similarities with this issue and addiction. Addiction has many roots, but sin and selfishness is definitely one of the main factors. Regardless, we don’t get a free pass to react or respond however we see fit. Our reactions and responses should glorify God. Loving someone that struggles with an addiction is an intense test of faith and trust.]