Navigating Anxiety and Faith
No one’s life is without struggles, but despite this, many humans manage to achieve some degree of success and satisfaction. I think this is because we know the struggles are temporary, and we don’t really see the struggles as deep, serious problems. We keep marching forward as if the problems didn’t exist, and sometimes this can lead to some great achievements.
Of course, it is good to put on a brave face in public, but when we do this in private too, our problems never really get dealt with properly. If we keep acting like we are invincible, then this becomes a habit that extends into our private lives as well until we are at a point where we can’t even be honest with ourselves since the shame would be unbearable.
If you are at a point of denial where you are even hiding from yourself, then this is a problem. Trying to hide your “bad self” from your “good self” creates a dichotomy that doesn’t actually exist. In reality, our “good self” isn’t worthy to judge our bad self since our “good self” isn’t really that good to begin with; it’s just proud. It may enjoy success and achievement, but in reality, it has grown exhausted from feigning courage. And, it is no surprise that it is exhausted since our “good self” really only has the strength of half a person. It has gradually separated itself from the “bad self,” and it has denied that the bad feelings and actions are really of great concern. It doesn’t deny that the bad ever occurred since we all at least can admit we aren’t absolutely perfect, but it does trivialize the bad stuff since it is more difficult for us to admit that we are far from perfect.
The “good self” and the “bad self” need to merge in order to create a complete person – a complete and honest identity. This is because the “good self” and the “bad self” are pretty much the same. In fact, anything with the word “self” in it is so far from perfect that it is heartbreaking. The “good self” is essentially the part of us that performs good deeds and works hard to make a difference in the world, but not without a hint of selfish motives. Therefore, separating the good self from the bad self is really a huge mistake since it blinds us to the reality that we are in need of grace even when we are “doing good.”
When we are doing good, we are far less self-aware. We don’t need be overly critical of ourselves, but we do at least need to be mildly aware of any sneaky selfishness that could creep into our daily “good” activities. When we see ourselves, as good, we see ourselves as almost perfect, at least for the moment. At times like these, we really can’t monitor our behavior and thoughts effectively because we aren’t expecting anything but good (or at least adequate) behavior.
When we feel angelic, we become completely unrestrained since we suddenly trust ourselves in making all the right decisions – we have no filter on what words come out of our mouths and we crack jokes that could really hurt people. When we feel angelic, we justify all our actions, no matter what they are.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.” Proverbs 14:12-13
I justify a lot of my actions by pointing out the importance of humor. Yes, humor is wonderful, but it can go too far, especially if what you are making fun of is really a serious problem someone struggles with. Like with the t-shirt I almost got one of my family members that said “Who left the lights on?” It was funny at first, but I gradually came to realize that this family member’s seemingly silly habit was really a manifestation of a deeper problem known as OCD.
Since when have mental disorders been ok to make fun of? In certain contexts, I guess it can be ok, but in the context of the home with people you love, the joke-cracking becomes questionable. This may seem backwards since people you are close to are more understanding, but I think it makes compete sense to tread more carefully at home since these are the people you are going to spend most of your life with. Their behavior will upset you at times. If it upsets you one minute and the next minute you are making fun of it, how can you ever expect it to improve? If you treat it like it’s no big deal, then it is swept under the rug until it comes up again and upsets you, at which point you realize it wasn’t trivial at all.
Integrating the two selves does not mean we need to frown and be grumpy at work. It means we need to deal with the bad stuff when we are by ourselves so that when we are around others, we do not have to fake confidence and happiness. We can become genuinely confident and happy when we have acknowledged the bad stuff and moved on, but we cannot move on until we’ve actually been honest with ourselves about the seriousness of the bad stuff. Sometimes, we may think we have moved on, but in reality, we may just be suppressing anger or bitterness or fear for the sake of appearing confident.
Suppression is understandable since we don’t want to bring personal stuff to work, but suppression is only the second best choice in this case since separation of the two selves contributes to disillusionment and denial. The best choice would be to seek repentance for the bad stuff and find renewal, allowing you to move forward with a truly confident demeanor and a fully integrated self.
Yes, even when we are truly confident and happy, the “bad self” is not separated from the “good self.” This is because it is a badness that has more to do with who we are as human beings rather than a badness resulting from the day-to-day unrighteous actions we commit. Jesus forgives us so it is as if we never committed any of those actions, but the reason the tendency towards badness still remains is because repentance is a continual process. Badness is in our human nature, and as long as we are physically human, we will struggle with it. Even if we do not acknowledge the badness and we suppress it, the badness is still there so we might as well acknowledge it and realize our full identity so as to receive grace.
This should not be discouraging since repentance is always available no matter what we’ve done. Our “bad selves” are basically an inherent defect that manifests itself in various ways. The defect itself should not be our focus, but the sin it causes us to commit should be because sinful actions are something that can actually decrease thanks to Jesus. The defect, on the other hand, is something that will not be taken away until He returns. Therefore, the defect should not diminish our confidence and joy even when we acknowledge it is a part of us.
When I say we need to integrate the “bad self” and “good self,” I am simply saying that we need to acknowledge our universal defect as humans. I am not saying that this defect should define who we are, but it should at least be acknowledged so that we do not become disillusioned, thinking we can cover up the bad stuff with the “good.” The only way we can actually cover up the bad stuff is with the Good that Jesus offers, not the “good” that we do in order to achieve success and happiness. That kind of “good” has everything to do with image and pride. That kind of “good” laughs in the face of struggles, thinking they are unimportant and easily suppressed.
If we see ourselves as inherently good then of course we will want to trivialize the bad stuff – the bad stuff seems weird and unnatural and it is all the more embarrassing to admit when the identity we cling to is hip, cool and confident. However, if we see ourselves as inherently bad, then we will have far more motivation to actually deal with the bad stuff and not deny it. Once we realize that each human has more problems than they can count, we can view badness as the epidemic that it is and finally see its seriousness.
While denying the bad stuff may allow us to achieve great things sometimes, there is no other clear advantage to suppression. In fact, suppression disillusions us so much that we may never fully realize our need for a savior. Jesus offers a way to deal with problems so it would be silly to just suppress them. And since it’s a good idea to face problems, why not face them now, when you are alone, so that you do not have to ruin everybody else’s day with your suppressed but still present agitation. I think I need to go do that now. Talk to you soon!