Fear can be such a driving force—crippling, compromising, and, at times, crushing. How many times have I second-guessed my decisions, wondered if anything I said or did mattered, and struggled to measure up? The truth is, we long to be loved and accepted and to live without the fear of inadequacy.
The other night, my husband and I spent one of those rare evenings with my two older children. The house was peaceful and my soon-to-be-married daughter had cooked a remarkable dinner. We talked, laughed, and reflected on our children’s lives. My husband asked them, “What has built your sense of self or given you confidence in the past few years?” I was quite impressed with his question. One of my kids said that he felt reassurance by always being welcome to join my husband and me in conversation and laughter after a long, hard day. He was reassured by our words:
- “You did great today!”
- “You showed up for life!”
- “You are amazing!”
My daughter said she loved hearing the words:
- “I’m so proud of you.”
- “I have seen such growth in this area of your life.”
- “I love you . . . just the way you are.”
I met with a friend the other day who has never been told she’s okay. She’s tried to measure up only to find the bar constantly raised just one rung higher.
After years of longing for acceptance, my friend is learning that she will never be good enough, according to earthly standards set by other imperfect people. This realization has left her brokenhearted and confused.
This same friend went with my son Jon and me to enjoy a day at the pool. We drifted along the lazy river, rounding the corners, sometimes laughing, sometimes quiet. Jon, often disregarded due to his disabilities, looked at our friend and with a pure genuineness said, “I love you” . . . words she has longed to hear, spoken in pure kindness from my disabled teenaged son.
Jon often hears the message that he’s not okay, yet he offers acceptance to everyone he meets. Tears flooded our friend’s eyes and mine. Feeling cared for just as we are gives us life and hope. We reveled silently in the peace and acceptance of that moment.
If we’re honest, most of us have made a few messes along the way. We’ve spoken harshly, judged wrongly, acted rudely. I think some of our behavior is connected to our deeper longing for acceptance—as we are, not as we “should” be according to another’s measuring stick. Usually, what bothers us most about others are the things we don’t like about ourselves. We can be so intolerant, isolating, or, even worse, indifferent.
Letting go and learning to live with open hands and hearts toward others can be tough, especially if you were never given a chance to be okay. You may be your worst critic. You may be trying to let go, yet you are fearful of letting the pieces fall. It’s okay; God sees you, in spite of your messes. He wants to help you through whatever mess you may be in.
Let Me Hear from You
I’ll leave you with three essential questions to contemplate related to finding acceptance:
- What are we working so hard to attain, and why?
- Who are we trying to please?
- Will we accept God’s unconditional love and believe—because of the work of Jesus—we’re okay in God’s eyes?
Who has the right to measure another when we all have fallen short of the glory of our grace-giving God (Romans 3:23)? Instead of the checklist of standards we’ve set up for others, let’s begin to speak words of hope.
God’s door is always open, you know! Walk right in, lie down, and hear your Lord say you are loved, treasured, and valued beyond measure! First John 4:9–11 says,
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.
My friend is sorting through a mess. She mentioned on several occasions that Jon—with all his life limits—is teaching her about loving acceptance, that she is okay just the way she is.
And so are you!
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