Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Mindful Monday: You’re Good Enough Already (So Stop Trying)

posted by Beyond Blue

HP Goodness.jpgIn “The Inner Voice of Love,” aka “Therese’s Morning Devotional … After Her Vitamins and Coffee,” spiritual author Henri Nouwen writes:

You feel overwhelmed by distractions, fantasies, the disturbing desire to throw yourself into the world of pleasure. But you know already that you will not find there an answer to your deepest question. Nor does the answer lie in rehashing old events, or in guilt or shame. All of that makes you dissipate yourself and leave the rock on which your house is built.

You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you can say yes to God’s love even when you do not feel it. Right now you feel nothing except emptiness and the lack of strength to choose. But keep saying, “God loves me, and God’s love is enough.” You have to choose the solid place over and over again and return to it after every failure.

I thought of Nouwen’s words this morning when my kindergartener’s teacher told the class to stretch their arms way out, to dig inside themselves and to feel the warmth of God’s love … because God loves us no matter what we do (to tell you the truth, I was a tad concerned for the rest of her day with that insurance so early in the morning).

What a powerful reminder.

It has stuck with me most of the day.

Because in its truth is found the freedom I’m looking for. The one thing that won’t and can’t change in my life is that I am a child of God and loved by God. Says Henri, “This is the identity you have to accept. Once you have claimed it and settled in it, you can live in a world that gives you much joy as well as pain. You can receive the praise as well as the blame that comes to you as an opportunity for strengthening your basic identity, because the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame.”

But that’s difficult for us to fathom. Not having to do anything to be loved. In their book, “Made for Goodness,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho Tuto write:

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line we have been inveigled and misled by the culture of achievement. We really can’t understand unconditional acceptance. We think there must be a catch somewhere, so we tie ourselves in knots in the effort to impress God. We strive and strain to earn what is already ours. And it wears us out.

The demon hidden behind the sense of purpose is a fear of not being good enough. It is the fear of not doing enough. That demon dread of not measuring up drains the joy from the work and saps the energy from the worker.

It is not only the so-called good works that can be driven by the invisible demon. The demon can kidnap any job and rob it of joy. When the demon steals into our psyche, the dedication and discipline that were once hallmarks of our devotion become an onerous burden. The tasks that once called us to give the best of ourselves, for the sheer pleasure of being involved in the work, come to feel like excessive demands. When the demon overtakes us we find that the career path that thrilled us when we first set our feet on it starts to meander through thickets of meaningless responsibilities, inane requirements, and mindless chores. When done in joyful love, the most mundane tasks can be life-affirming. When driven by the demon, the most exhilarating work can be numbingly denying.

The demon fear of not being good enough convinces us that perfection is the price to pay for love. Our perfection is the price we imagine we must pay for the love of God. So we strive endlessly to “be good” or to “do good” instead of realizing that we ARE GOOD. WE don’t have to struggle and strive to overcome an innate tendency to do what is bad and wrong. In everything we do we can fulfill the purpose for which we were made and rejoice in our inherent goodness.

In short, we can stop “being good” and simply live from our goodness.

So remember, if just for today, you are loved by God. Not matter what.

Illustration by Anya Getter.

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  • joe gonzalez

    Excellent, Therese ! But it seems to be a little beyond achievement, actualization…We ARE sons and daughters of God. Permit me to think out loud…God’s Name is I AM THAT I AM, and so should we appropiate it for ourselves. Not i ought to be…not i should be…I AM. And with the courage to accept that, unlike God, we are good and bad. But only by being, and by being entirely honest with ourselves, can we dance the dance of Life. What ! – A mistep ? Shucks, isn’t that something !?! And back to the rhythm. You can only change what is at hand, you can only work with the given ; and it’s all there : I AM.
    Live it, love it. How do you correct a child’s error ? Through a receptivity of love ; not anger, not projected expectations, just love for that little being who has a right to mistakes. Be,with all you can be ! When you lovingly find yourself off track, love yourself right back on track !

  • David Stein

    Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes it becomes hard to remember something as simple as remembering God loves us. Especially when we are in the throws of an episode (either manic or depressive) causing our minds to go in circles. We need to step back, rethink the situation and remember we are not alone in our struggles. I thought that this was a great quote:
    “The demon hidden behind the sense of purpose is a fear of not being good enough. It is the fear of not doing enough. That demon dread of not measuring up drains the joy from the work and saps the energy from the worker.”
    We all are constantly struggling with our inner-demons, and rarely do we try to understand why we have them. The fear of not being “good enough” is poignant, especially in today’s society, where we are constantly trying to empress others. Instead of just accepting our lot in life and trying to grow both mentally and spiritually, we get lost in an un-winable battle.
    Stay strong!
    Dave.
    http://planb-publishing.com/MoralPhilosophy/2010/05/24/manic-depressive-illness-the-dark-side-of-mental-illness-manipulation-and-anger/

  • Joe

    Despite the “positive” writing of the Tutus, they are wrong in their assumption. Man is basically evil; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it.” (Jeremiah 17:9) and “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man:…” (Matthew 15:19-20), as well as, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6).
    Since the fall of Adam into sin, man is not and cannot be “good,” as measured by the only standard for good, God Himself. Without repentance of our sins, faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins, and the hope of our resurrection through Him, we are forever lost in our sins, and there is nothing whatsoever we can do, apart from the Holy Spirit, that can return us to a right relationship with God. “Good” is NOT innate in humanity, no matter what people think.
    God is the standard for good. Do you honestly think you measure up to our Creator? I don’t think so.

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  • http://depressiongetaway.com Wendy Love

    Thank you Therese for that gentle, but powerful, reminder that God loves me. I need to remind myself everyday and you helped me today. It makes me think of one of my favourite little songs “I am so glad that Jesus loves me, Jesus loves even me!” My day just got better with that bit of truth.

  • Rita

    Henri Nouwen used the word “beloved”. We are God’s beloved. Ahh, I soak in that.
    I understand your concern about telling children that God loves them no matter what. Hee. Hee.

  • Hopefulmaiden

    In my life, I haven’t been able to “feel” God’s love for me until (and this has been recent) I have clearly seen my desperate need for Him — my hopelessness in my sin. There are great pockets of self-seeking, selfishness, deceitfulness, covetousness — just about every ugly thing you could name, I have been led to see in my own heart. I am just now understanding (and appreciating) God’s goodness in allowing me, leading me, to see these things so clearly in myself. It is a hard process. It is painful to see these things in myself — it shatters my pride in my own goodness. To see myself as He sees me. And to know — Still He loves me.
    It is humbling and amazing. I know it is a path a Christian must take. I was not even WILLING to see these things. Yet He shows them to me anyway — my unforgiving spirit, my anger, bitterness, hatred, all of it. If He had not taken the time to show me all of this about myself, I never would nave truly realized my deep need for Him. For what he freely offers me. Forgiveness. Redemption. Wholeness in Him. Grace. I do not deserve it.
    There is much mystery in this as I contemplate it and live it day to day. Pain intertwines with joy. Throw in a major mood disorder (and many character defects) and my willingness, my ability, to perceive and understand these things is hampered. But God overcomes it all. 2 Peter 3:9 has a new and wonderfully personal meaning for me today.
    Thank you, Therese, for freely and generously giving very valuable and meaningful gifts of the heart to think and pray about.

  • skylark

    I think Joe has spoken truth to this subject of God’s unconditional love…it is God alone who is good ( see Matthew 19:16: the story of
    the rich young man) Man in his sinfulness must humble himself to the reality of this truth and yes, fast, pray and do penance to indicate to God that he is mindful of this reality. The Tutus are incorrect in their assumption of man’s goodness and perhaps are not fully aware of the effects of evil in this world…even though both must be fully aware of man’s inhumanity toward other men. There is much joy in knowing that inspite of our sinfulness we have a merciful and forgiving God…but we have to admit our sinfulness, accept correction and make amendments in our lives where necessary. I think it was good to begin the day in awareness of this reality, even in
    very small children, so that in the inevitability of mis-conduct later in their day, a reminder of this might be all that is needed to return the child to acceptable behaviours. We can see God’s goodness
    all around in His Creation but we must not be blind to the fact that evil exists and has much attraction for us and pray to be ever mindful of that. God in His Love for us has given us His Spirit with all its gifts for faithfulness to His Promise if we are but willing to obey….and repent when we have separated ourselves from this Love
    by our sinfulness. Our culture is hardened against the Truth of reality and in past cultures the price to be paid for this has been enormous.

  • Dee

    Thank You so much for this awesome post. Lately I have been struggling with the thought I am not good enough for God’s love always questioning why would He want to love me. Finding no answers easily, your words are profound and believable. So for today I am loved by the Most High.

  • Mike

    God loves us, yes. He loves us too much to let us persist in our iniquity.
    C.S. Lewis insists that self forgetfulness, rather than this self-indulgance, self-involved, self-accepting spiritual masterbation is the key to happiness.
    We are not meant to unconditionally love the SELF, but to unconditionally love the SOURCE of the self, namely, the Creator.
    How tragic; not only do we have to preach the cure, but we now must preach the disease.

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