This beautiful gem from Catholic Spiritual Direction has clarified some struggles I've been having.
But humility is the virtue that regulates self-esteem. It is singularly unhealthy to esteem one’s self more or less than the truth about who one is.
I see the truth in this so clearly. Some of the people in my life who I love the most are suffering lack of self-worth because they can't see who they really are. Something gets in the way, either internally or externally, and it must be the devil because if they could see themselves as God sees them then that would only draw them closer to the One who made them and loves them.
I've had arguments with family members who quote me the Bible verse: "[God] desires mercy, not sacrifice" to mean that God wouldn't send a trial my way in order to form me in holiness because He doesn't want sacrifice. I see it differently, though. I see in my trials an opportunity to be humble, and since pride is one of my most persistent challenges, anything which divests me of it does the will of God.But the gravity of pride constantly pulls at us and...this pull can only be resisted through prayer, fasting, and humble acceptance of those trials which come our way. Prayer, fasting and the acceptance of trial helps us realize that our true value is in God’s love for us and in his love for those he has entrusted us. Real self-esteem is rooted in this realization.
I am very weak-willed. Because of that, Lent has been mixed this year. I tried to give up tea but found myself unable to moderate my fatigue and irritation without the caffeine. Rather than subject my family to emotional outbursts, (and frankly, unable to get through my TO DO list while taking an hour nap every afternoon!) I decided tea is a necessity, not an indulgence, and therefore I am not being called to moderate it at this moment. I have been given a few fasts due to health issues that I am not adhering too, and it occurs to me that God wants me to align my will to the sacrifices I am being called to make, not those I choose on my own.
Of course, we are halfway through Lent and I am just now coming to this epiphany after weeks of uncharacteristic indulgence (trip to Mexico with my sister, Denver Restaurant Week, trip to Vail with visiting family from overseas, etc.) My weakness is so vast that I wouldn't allow myself to recognize the Lenten sacrifice God gave me until I was past the greatest temptations. Which makes me wonder: why am I fighting this so hard? What do I lose by moderating my gluttony and indulgence in food and drink?
The answer is that I am addicted to these things. They are the material crutch I depend on in order to regulate my emotions and keep myself from slipping back into depression. I hate being depressed. I hate not having control over myself. I don't feel that I could "lose it" again and be supported by family. My depression is not an option. I feel that every time I slip or make a mistake or yell or lose my temper that I am permanently altering my place in my immediate and extended family, and they will leave.
I am governed by fear, and food keeps the fear at bay. Food comforts me, grounds me, and feeds my hunger for pleasure. There's too much I am working on all the time that I feel like I just can't work on being disciplined with food, too. I have to be weak in this area so I can be strong elsewhere.
But the reality, of course, is that the opposite is true. Having developed this dynamic where my self-indulgence is justified because I "need" to save my strength for other areas, I find myself indulging not just in food but in other material pleasures. My appetites for consumerism, entertainment, leisure, and comfort have also increased.
Every single time I read the Word of God, attend Mass, or hear the news, I know I am being called to let go of this addiction. And every time I try I run up against the fear that if I don't keep myself calm and "cared for" I will lose it again.
Our lives are meant to co-inhere: to co-inhere in God and to co-inhere in one another. For Bernard, the self does not fully exist isolated from God or from others. The self, the human “I,” ought to be in communion with God and others, or it is less than itself.
This preoccupation on caring for myself has brought me to a place where I am no longer relying on God's love to sustain me. It is God, not cake, that will help me be a good mother. He is not asking me to starve myself or go without the necessities that I require each day. It is not impossible what He asks of me. So why am I struggling with it so much?
Why can't I value myself in the right way, as a child of God who is loved and cared for, and not as someone too weak and ill to make a Lenten sacrifice or stick to a medically prescribed diet? I feel further from grace than I have in years, and unable to claw my way back into His light.
The truth is: I can't get myself to where God wants me to be. I have to sit here, in my weakness, and call on Him to help me. It's the only way I can be rid of myself and exist in communion with God.
Lord, help me love You more.