The Virtue of Self-Acceptance
by Barbara Byers
I’ve recently been thinking of, and receiving more deeply of the virtue self-acceptance, which of course means I’ve been repenting more! It can be painful to see the pride that masquerades as humility, but to see and repent of that pride is a gift of grace. Pride makes its demands as “shoulds” and “oughts” – “I should have been better or done better. I don’t measure up; I lack.” We are born into a world where wounds of rejection by others, shame, and even rejection by ourselves have shaped us. We often see ourselves through the eyes of those who rejected us and we believe that is reality!
One day when praying with a client, I was given a picture of the soul with an internal measuring device, a thermometer of performance and worth. This indicated a sort of “spiritual schizophrenia” where the thermometer vacillated according to subjective assessments of the self. When this distorted self-image drives performance, we actually live cut off from self, engulfed in pride and shame, minding our own introspective standards, going deeper into the oppression of unworthiness. This self-hatred may emerge as judgmentalism, perfectionistic demands, preoccupation with undue guilt, fear of the future, feeling abandoned, and feeling that we don’t fit in.
Many Christians who have had wonderful experiences with God are still living with this terrible self-hatred. They are waiting for one more breakthrough so they can feel different, not recognizing that often they are blocked because they have not come to embrace the process of self-acceptance. Leanne Payne, in The Healing Presence, commenting on the failure to acquire the virtue of self-acceptance, wrote: “However much a person lives out of the diseased attitudes and feelings toward the self, to that extent he will fail to find and live from his true center where God dwells, speaks and empowers him.”
To bring this all to Christ and name it is powerful. What grace can then come from our repentance! We exchange that false humility for a genuine acceptance of ourselves – the true self now free to grow in the graces of Christlikeness and virtue of self-acceptance.
Our narrow, demanding measuring instrument is smashed, replaced by joyous abiding, daily learning to walk in the truth of who we are as Christ-bearers. We exchange our faulty internal measurements for His truth. We stop listening to the lies of the enemy who distorts and confuses us, and instead by renewing our minds, we listen for God’s healing word that transforms. We come to know that ” …He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6). His merciful esteem and acceptance of us in the Beloved changes our thoughts, feelings, and responses and empowers us to live from our true center.
Underpinning self-acceptance is growth in this virtue by faith, by the Word, and the Spirit, as we agree to be the persons we are created to be. This takes courage; this is no passive acceptance, but an active, courageous choice to listen to His voice when He tells us who we are. We then begin to enjoy a sense of belonging, of being loved, wanted, accepted, and cared for; we recognize our worth; and we expand our sense of being competent, that we are able to meet life as we need to because of His abiding presence.
By receiving His forgiveness deeply, we are enabled to forgive ourselves. Self-acceptance is a virtue both courageous and beautiful, a glorious acceptance in the Beloved. May we be listening for His voice, practicing His presence, abiding so that our internal thermometer is rendered inoperative in His light and through His Word. Come take this journey with me!