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During the last several months we have had a conversation on a proposed spiritual therapeutic model toward healing from moral injury. This six step model includes;
- Acknowledge (confession) – take an honest assessment of thoughts and behavior, then acknowledge guilt and shame, and anger
- Forgiveness – choose forgiveness of self in the trauma experience as well as others who may have had responsibility
- Self-acceptance – renounce self lies like; I’m no good, I’m nothing, I’m worthless, I can’t be loved, and accept the reality of being a child of God
- Renewal – begin to retrain mind
- Amends – restoration involves a direct way to repair what has been damaged or broken (for the veteran, maybe difficult to go back to place of injury, however, there are other ways; contribute to refugee or orphan fund in the area of the war, volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen, etc)
- Accountability – be in a community that offers accountability and support
We have discussed the first two steps; confession and forgiveness. This month, we will discuss the third step, self-acceptance. The concept of self-esteem, self-love, and self image has become a relevant and hot topic, and the subject of much debate. One of the criticisms for today’s culture is that people have become self-centered. We live in a day and culture in which we have become lovers of self. We have become self-centered and satiated with self-actualization, self-esteem, self-worth and self-fulfillment. All we need to do is look at the titles of best selling books or read contemporary psychology.
However, without getting into the debate, one thing that is clear, a veteran who experiences moral injury finds it extremely difficult to accept self.
DIFFICULTY WITH SELF-ACCEPTANCE
In my counseling sessions as a chaplain, I have experienced many who are insecure. People simply don’t like themselves. I have counseled numerous persons who engage in self-rejection because they think that God is angry with them because they have done something terribly wrong or because they are not perfect. As a result, they live in a constant state of frustration, continually rejecting themselves. Many feel bad every time they make mistake.
Or, people try to please God with their works. They live daily on a performance treadmill, always trying to do something to feel good about themselves. Everything they do is to ensure they are in right standing with God. To live this way, they become exhausted, frustrated, and unhappy.
What often happens is that no matter how much we love God or chose to do what is right, we still cannot accept ourselves. It is difficult to like “me.” Both of these life styles lead to negative feelings that result in depression, discouragement, and possibly self-destruction.
IMPORTANCE OF SELF-ACCEPTANCE
From a previous in-depth conversation about moral injury, we understand that moral injury produces guilt and shame from something done or witnessed that goes against one’s values. We have looked at the spiritual implications of confession and forgiveness. Both can be a means to experiencing positive spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. The critical phrase is “can be.”
Both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures remind us that there is nothing we can do to earn right standing with God or salvation. There is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us more or less that God already does.
Our self-acceptance affects our understanding of and relationship with God. Our self-acceptance also influences our social life and our relationships with others. So, how can we move beyond “can be”?
STEPS TOWARD SELF-ACCEPTANCE
Scripture reveals to us a spiritually balanced concept of self-image. Let’s review some of the steps to self-acceptance;
- we consider our worth as individuals (Psalm 139:13-14, “You are made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it.” [NLT])
- we think properly of ourselves (Romans 12:3, the Apostle Paul writes, “As God’s messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.” [NLT].)
- we will continue to make mistakes, however God will continue to cover us and not condemn us (Isaiah 61:10 shares, “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness.” [NLT])
- we learn to accept ourselves as God sees us (because of grace); who we are and where we are (Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.” [NLT])
- we then can discover the concept of self as it develops out of our understanding of God and God’s grace (Paul writes to the church in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me – and not without results.” [NLT])
How we understand these steps will be key in how we live our lives, in how we treat others, in how we think of ourselves, and ultimately in what we do with our lives. That we think properly of ourselves is important.
Also important to understand, each day we will most likely mess up, sin. God will not be mad at us because we are not perfect. God desires for us to run the race!
For the veteran, it takes on importance knowing that God is on the veteran’s side, God wants the veteran to feel good about her/himself, and that each day the veteran makes progress toward accepting self. It is in this journey the veteran can realize and live out his/her life with contentment and even joy.
What stories do you have from your personal journey or the journeys of others in how to experience self-acceptance? Next time, we will discuss the fourth step; renewal. Until then, thank you for the conversation…