DPS Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Easter (year B)
“Quieting the Voice of Self Criticism”
1 John 3:16-24 & More
Rev. Elaine Wing
Do you remember the fairy tale of “Snow White
and the Seven Dwarfs?” In the story, the wicked witch peered into her
magic looking glass and asked, “Mirror,
mirror, on the wall who is the fairest of them all?”
The mirror’s answer was very disappointing, “It’s
certainly not you, Ugly!”
I’m sure you don’t have a talking mirror, but I
do wonder if any of you, like me, has an “inner critic.” I grew up
hearing the voices of self critics among my family. I accepted them as
normal and now I hear my kids being unduly self critical.
Perhaps you know what I’m talking about – you
see a picture of yourself and see the flaws instead of the beauty. The
critic is particularly vocal when we open an old high school yearbook --
“Look at all those zits” Or, in my case, “all the kinky, frizzy hair.”
Did you hear the story about the child who went
to the zoo, came home and wrote a letter to God? “Dear God, the boy
wrote, “did you mean for a giraffe to look like that or was it an
accident?” Unfortunately, too many folks are not happy about
their looks – they are too short, too tall, too heavy or too skinny….
I was stunned when I went to my medical
doctor’s office and saw a sign promoting botox shots. My GP said that he
was against it at first but his partners outvoted him. The doctor in the
practice who administers the botox shots has a full schedule with men,
women, and youth as his patients.
It is really sad to realize how dependent our
self esteem is upon our physical appearance. Before Adam and Eve
disobeyed the Lord in the Garden, they looked upon themselves and agreed
with God that he had done a good job creating man and woman. After they
sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, they became alarmed at their
self-image. And, since Lord and Taylor and The Gap were not
yet in business, they grabbed the nearest fig leaf to cover themselves.
From that point forward it seems, humankind has
struggled with an inner voice that whispers in one’s ear that they are
somehow lacking. In fact, I haven’t met one person yet who didn’t have an
inner critic that monkeyed with their self esteem.
I bet you’ve heard some of these comments made
by people as they allow their self critic to speak out:
“What an idiot I am”
“I can’t believe I did that!”
“I am never good enough”
“Nothing I do works out.”
“I never seem to learn from my mistakes.”
For the millions of us who periodically battle
our own worst enemy, I want us to hear the words of 1 John 3: 16-24. This
passage was actually part of the scripture grouping from last week but
several of the verses jumped out at me and I felt they warranted their own
sermon. Listen for them…
Read 1 John 3:16-24 (“The Message” by Eugene
I never realized that the Bible spoke so
directly about self criticism. I guess John, the author of this text,
realized that disparaging words were not only unhealthy but they made it
very difficult to love one self.
included self love within the greatest commandment, I imagine John wanted
to be sure he addressed this problem among the new disciples.
John said “God is greater than our worried hearts and knows
more about us than we do ourselves.”
I love that verse! John is telling us that God knows all
things – much like the writer of Psalm 139 said in the prayer we offered
together a little bit ago. God knows our sins, our love, our longings,
the nobility that fails to fully work itself out… This knowledge gives
God the sympathy to understand us and forgive us.
Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century scholar, said “Man
sees the deed but God knows the intention.” Another writer said that “God
judges us by the deep emotions of our heart and if in our heart there is
love – even when imperfect, we can be confident within God’s presence.”
Speaking of imperfection, have you ever met a
Once upon a time, a perfect man and a perfect
woman met after a perfect courtship, they had a perfect wedding. (Josu –
listen up!) Their life together was absolutely perfect.
One snowy Christmas Eve this perfect couple was
driving their perfect car along a winding road when they noticed someone
at the side of the road in distress. Being the perfect couple, they
stopped to help.
There stood Santa Claus with a huge bundle of
toys. Not wanting to disappoint any children on Christmas Eve, the
perfect couple loaded Santa and his toys into their car. Soon they were
driving along delivering toys.
Unfortunately, the driving conditions
deteriorated and the perfect couple and Santa Claus had an accident. Only
one of them survived the accident.
Who do you think was the survivor?
Obviously, the perfect woman was the only one
who survived because she is the only one who really existed in the first
place. Everyone knows there is no Santa Claus and there is no such thing
as a perfect man. J
Wait, there is more. If there is no perfect man and there
is no Santa Claus, then the perfect woman must have been driving and that
explains why there was a car accident.
Ohhhkay…Since our Creator is truly the ONLY ONE
who is perfect, let’s get back to his Word!
In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew we read that
Jesus was asked the question, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is
the greatest? Jesus referred to the Hebrew words from the books of
Deuteronomy and Leviticus in his answer.
He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is
the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall
love your neighbor as yourself.’”
There are two key points in this text for us
today. The first is the order – Jesus clearly ranked loving God as the
most important and primary step. In order to love humankind we must first
love God. The second point is the implication of the word “as” in the
last verse. We are told by Jesus to love our neighbor AS our self.
The intent of the word “as” in this statement
is not “as much as” but rather “in the same way
that.” Meaning, our active love will be shown when we make the same
allowances for our neighbor as ourselves. The problem, according to many
authors I read, is that we are far more compassionate and understanding
with others than we are with ourselves.
I would like to briefly share with you five
steps that I found in an article written by Psychiatrist Robert Leahy. I
am weaving into his work some thoughts of other authors and colleagues. I
hope they will be helpful in silencing your self critic…
Step One: Replace self criticism with self correction.
If you think you can do better in a situation,
don’t put yourself down. Look for a solution. Change your behavior.
Isn’t that what several Biblical characters did? Consider Zacchaeus, the
tax collector, who invited Jesus to his home and then committed much of
his wealth to Jesus’ ministry.
Step Two: Look at the positives, too
Most of us can more easily name our weaknesses
than we can our strengths. We are more aware of our failures than our
successes and more aware of our limitations than our gifts. But even if
some of the negatives are true, why not consider some of the positives as
Step Three: Be as Kind to Yourself as You Are to A
Ask yourself, “If my best friend had this
problem, how would I support him or her?” Then treat yourself in that
manner. When we realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part
of the human experience, we are better able to be compassionate instead of
judgmental with ourselves.
Step Four: Let Yourself Be Human
Think of all the people you know, and think
about their imperfections. Recognize your shortcomings without digging a
hole and climbing into it.
Step Five: Focus On Your Goals, Not On Your Self Critic
No matter what you do, your critical voice will
still be telling you that “you can’t do anything right or that you are
less than.” Answer back!
Tell that insidious voice that it can keep
yakking away, but you are going to take care of yourself. Then focus on
doing whatever you need to do: get your work done, go to the gym, take a
walk, work on important relationships… By acting, you are making a
fundamental decision to live your life fully, with all of life’s ups and
downs, with the critic’s voice in the trunk of the car instead of behind
Be willing to give yourself credit for what you
do right and improve what you do wrong. Put your best self on your side!
The Bible is clear – we have all been given
talents, opportunities and limitations to achieve the goals or plans God
has set for us.
The Apostle Paul wrote “We are chosen
instruments of God to carry out the Lord’s work.”
Scripture also tells us that “We are his
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared
beforehand that we should walk in them.” It is our choice to accept
who we are and to know that God is continuing to finish us much as a great
work of art.
With God’s help, each of
us can silence the voice of the critic who lives within us. And, going
back to 1 John, once that is taken care of and we're no longer accusing
or condemning ourselves, we're bold and free before God!
Saint Augustine wrote,
“Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of
the sea, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the
stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”
Isn’t that sad? You
and I were made in the image of God. And what more beautiful image is
there? Each of us are so special that Christ died for us.
Mirror, mirror on
the wall, who is the fairest of them all? It is you and me – and our
lives in Jesus!
Amen and amen!
The Holy One, Rev. Bill Albertus,
Rev. Stephen M. Crotts, “Mirror, Mirror…”, Rev. James Merritt, Rev.
Leonard Sweet, Dr. Robert Leahy, W. Barclay – The Daily Study Bible Series