Checking our progress against our goals is a pretty standard process in the employment world. Hired to do specific tasks for a defined wage or salary, our supervisors want a documented understanding of how the mutual arrangement is working out for both parties. What can be an honorable, affirming opportunity to communicate our achievements and potential growth frequently seems to be reduced to measuring statistics of right and wrong, resulting in anticipatory misery, and limiting the zeal for the aforementioned potential growth. Any wonder our major concern at annual review time is whether we will live to see the still-employed side of the next downsizing. I’m not surprised, then, to see the unabashed glee on the part of actors nominated today for Oscars. These are people who feel downsized after every job, and even the most successful and famous have publicly stated they are never certain they will ever work again. To be so honored in a business culture enamored of youth and money must feel as good as it gets.
We are accustomed to work evaluations, and as much as we cringe over them, we expect them, accept them, and move on with our lives. We aren’t necessarily so forthright in accepting evaluations from friends and relatives may have of us, these reviews more commonly known as opinions. while we believe as a culture that we all have a right to our own opinions, the general rule of thumb is that our own is best, and we don’t like having anyone else’s differing opinion leveled at us. When that does happen, we usually label that passing judgment, sometimes cracking our Bibles open to whichever Gospel writer nailed the topic best. In short, we are not comfortable with hearing what people think of us not because they may be right, but because we assume they are wrong, which means we have to prove them wrong to maintain our selfhood.
Looking at ourselves is not so different an experience. Living inside our own heads is a challenge. We each know ourselves best, and can become quite skilled at juggling all sorts of thoughts and beliefs that sometimes mesh, and often times don’t. Human beings are contradictory souls. Living with ourselves and each other isn’t for sissies. It requires strength, resiliency, honesty, and above all, love. Quite frankly, though, I don’t see many people who are good at loving themselves. We women never seem happy with ourselves, and we invest a lot of energy in displeasure over how we look, our relationships, our children’s behavior and futures, and the state of our finances. I’m sure that men rally around their own self-condemnation tents with cymbals and tambourines too, still stuck in old cultural patterns of wondering if they make enough money, possess enough property, and are upwardly mobile enough to stay in the game.
What does loving ourselves have to do with any of this? Why do we waste so much energy proving God wrong in creating us by doing everything in our power to remake ourselves over in a societal vision of misery and frustration?
What would it mean for us to consider the world as Jesus presented it to the Pharisees when they asked him which was the greatest commandment? “He said to them, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. and a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).” Jesus gives us a wonderful snapshot of the Pharisees trying to put him into a defensive position, one in which they are sure there is no right answer, Rather than dig into proving the Pharisees wrong about him, Jesus proceeds with the truth of God’s word, even as he himself embodies the truth as God’s Word.
If we woke up in the morning approaching the day knowing we stood in God’s love as our truth, my guess is that we wouldn’t worry so much about living by someone else’s rules and observations, but would be more inclined to reflect the image of our Creator in our thoughts, words, and actions. We would trust ourselves, be more open-minded and understanding about other people’s behavior, perhaps be more gentle and forgiving overall, especially of ourselves.