Overcoming Self Criticism and Self Doubt
Rev. Frank Schaefer
Romans 8:31, 38-39
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who
can ever be against us?
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither
death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor
our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from
God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in
all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is
revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We sang songs about God’s affirmation of us, we heard Scripture passage that is
super affirming. We are supposed to accept and love ourselves for who God
created us to be, and yet, I bet you, most of us here this morning don’t have
that positive, affirming relationship with ourselves. Many of us are much more
critical of ourselves than we are of others. We’ll give other people the benefit
of the doubt, but we won’t give ourselves any slack at all.
To answer the question Paul raised in Romans 8: If God is for me, who can be
against me...it’s me, I am against me. I am my worst enemy. And I have to live
with myself. I can’t just walk away from myself. On a recent stroll
through downtown, I saw an older man holding up a sign that said: old, ugly and
homeless, followed by a an invitation to donate a couple of bucks. I looked at
him and did not think he was ugly at all. It was all in his head. A perfect
illustration of how self-condemnation works.
I've seen it many times in other people, good people, God's people. They have
fallen victim to self-criticism and self doubt.
Some call this accuser “Satan” or “the devil.” The Greek word Satanas, however,
is not a name, it's a word that translates into the English as “enemy.” From
what I've seen, this accuser lives inside all of us. It's like that little devil
that sits on our shoulder and whispers accusations into our ear. As I see it,
the inner critic is the biggest reason we cannot love or forgive ourselves. So,
why don't we just ignore that evil voice?
It's easier said than done, isn't it? Whenever we do mess up, the inner accuser
will tell us that we blew it with God, that God turned away from us in disgust,
that we may as well throw in the towel. And we tend to believe that voice. I
don't know why, maybe it has to do with our upbringing, all the negative things
we've been told. Or maybe it's just a human phenomenon.
The inner critic is able to exaggerate the negative to a point that the positive
vanishes. You may have made many good decisions, but you make one bad decision
and it feels like you always make wrong decisions. The inner critic whispers
into your ear: you got it wrong again.
I’ll be sitting in the living room all by myself and suddenly go out loud: o
crap” as I relieve a conversation or something else I think I messed up. And
I’ll feel embarrassed all over again as my inner critic tries to tear my
I hate traffic, especially because no matter what lane I get into, that's going
to be the slowest of them all; cars passing left and right. I swear. But if I
think about it, do I really believe that God steers the entire universe so that
I end up in the slowest lane? Angel one to angel two: “Schaefer just got into
the middle lane, make sure an 18 wheeler pulls into his lane ahead.”
Statistically impossible. But the inner accuser is not interested in the truth.
The inner accuser is a liar and the only reason we listen to this voice is
because we've done it for so long it feels familiar and therefore true.
Since I first shared about this, I have had less of a negative and degrading
attitude in traffic, mostly because I’ve been driving my motorcycle more and
with the CA weave I never get stuck in traffic again.
But seriously, I find myself still thinking so negatively.
Lecture I have to give….I feel inadequate. Inner voice: ppl will think you’re an
idiot. You havent done this before, You’ve not been in an academic setting in 14
I’ve am writing speeches for most every Sunday.
According to Rev. 12:10, the inner accuser is a liar; the accuser of our
brothers and sister s will one day be destroyed. The truth is that even when we
mess up, we can always come to God and ask for forgiveness, be forgiven and get
right back up on our horse. Don't think that God is so naïve to think that we
won't make mistakes. Trust me, God knows that failures and even incredibly
stupid acts are part of being human.
In 1 John 2:1 we read: My dear children, I write this to you so that you will
not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus
Christ, the Righteous One.
Now, that's the other voice that we should listen to. The one that says that no
matter how much we mess up, there is forgiveness, and there is an advocate on
our side, no other than Jesus Christ.
The truth is that when God looks at us, even amidst our failures and mistakes,
he sees in us only the good, forgiving the bad. God is proud of you and me. God
is our Parent, our creator. Truth is that as we follow Jesus into baptism and
discipleship, the call of God to Jesus become our call: “You are my beloved
child in whom I delight.”
Whose voice will you believe today? Accept yourself as God accepts you. Lift up
your head and forgive yourself as God has forgiven you already. Take it easy on
yourself. You are beloved and all God wants you to do is walk with a little
faith in your step.