So here's the problem: I don't really like myself. At least I haven't for most of my life.
I've been working on it recently. It's really no way to live.
I think a big part of the problem was that I was raised with a very negative identity. I mean, I was loved and had my basic needs met and everything, but what I heard pretty much everywhere was everything I wasn't supposed to be and do.
"We don't talk that way." "Boys aren't supposed to be like that." "Christians shouldn't be acting that way."
Before long, I internalized that sort of negativity. What's worse, it became my idea of God's personality.
I went from being a bit of a social butterfly and one of the most outgoing kids in elementary school to being a reserved, angry, introspective adolescent, teenager, young adult. I was beaten down and defeated. It really wasn't pretty.
A negative identity breeds those things. Whatever I did, wherever I went, I couldn't feel comfortable in my own skin. I desperately wanted approval of family and peers. I became wrapped up within myself in a messy inward crisis.
My big sister called it one day when I was a kid. She told me, "Jonathan, you're so bitter." Of course, at the time, I was bitter toward her for saying it, but remembering this actually may have later helped me come to terms with it. I could remember and place that moment in the trajectory of my childhood that began with not ever feeling good enough, smart enough, well-behaved enough, and ended with a slide into deep depression, anxiety and introspection.
Introspection. Sounds pretty safe, reflective, like something one does with a cold one, a cigar, maybe some cool jazz or Pink Floyd or something. Not so.
A speaker from English L'Abri that I admire a lot calls introspection, "mental masturbation," which I think is really helpful. The mind gets all wrapped up in itself and its anxieties, becomes completely withdrawn, and the person finally comes to the place where they live inside themselves, never entering the world around them. The focus isn't where it needs to be. This creates tons of problems for us.
It's not supposed to be this way. Our existence is supposed to be positive, freeing, liberating, not uncomfortable and repressed.
And what's more, I have everything it takes. I'm not a misfit or shortchanged or anything. I was created with everything I need for the life I'm meant to live.
And that is live-giving for someone who doesn't like himself.