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A Commitment

Posted on July 20th, 2005

I have a monkey on my back. In fact, it’s a rather gigantic monkey. This monkey has been attached for years and years, and I have been feeding it handsomely. When people tried to get it off my back, I protected it and defended it. But tonight, I finally realized how stupid this monkey is; I realized that it is absolutely useless and that it has burdened me for as long as it has been there. So I have decided to get rid of the monkey.

This monkey is the self-hate one. For a very long time – easily eight years – I fueled this with noble intentions: to foster humility and to vanquish pride. I developed the philosophy that, by putting myself down, I could demonstrate modesty. Another consequence of being hard on myself was that it gave me motivation to improve; since it was so hard to meet my expectations, it provided me with a challenge to better myself.

So I overtly insulted myself. I was quick to point out my faults and hard-pressed to acknowledge my strengths. I diverted praise to others so that I would not risk falling victim to pride. I hid my accomplishments.

And this all worked. While there were times that I let myself feel utterly miserable, I also managed to maintain a good average in high school and in university. I was able to push myself by reminding myself that, unless I am employing my full potential, I am a failure.

There were other side-effects, too. I got attention for it. Few have even gone as far to say that I did this to get attention. I fervently denied it but, upon some serious reflection, I think that they were partly right. And while I did not explicitly show my desire for attention, I was loving it inside. So, if any of them are reading this, I want to thank you for being honest with me and willing to confront me on it. I also want to apologize for being so difficult on the matter.

What changed? Well, a number of things did. The first thing was a conversation that I had with Sarah Kivell. Now, I have become increasingly willing to be very honest with her, and I have been very fortunate to receive her compassion and understanding. While speaking with her today (it started out as a discussion about some plans involving the Embassy… she’s not my counsellor, ya know!), we went on a bit of a tangent to discuss some of our personal characteristics. Durings this tangent, she described humility as seeing ourselves as we truly are, with nothing more and nothing less. You might say, “Duh”, but it was more profound for me.

I always defined humility, at least to myself, as seeing ourselves as we truly are, with nothing more. It was a ceiling that prevented me from thinking I am greater than what I actually am. And that’s good and all, but it also left a whole lot of room below to think of myself as less than what I actually am.

When she said it, I thought to myself that what she offered was a really great way to describe humility. As I was rushing to class (the discussion went a little overtime), I started to churn up some of these thoughts.

The second thing that hit me was something that I read tonight. Donald Miller was writing about the very popular verse Love your neighbour as yourself. He put a very interesting twist to it: normally, this is used to describe how to treat other people, but he reversed it. Here’s a little excerpt, because he phrased it so wonderfully bluntly:

[God] was saying I would never talk to my neighbour the way I talked to myself, and that somehow I had come to believe it was wrong to kick other people around but it was okay to do it to myself . . . And I wouldn’t receive love because it felt so wrong. It didn’t feel humble, and I knew I was supposed to be humble. But that was all crap, and it didn’t make any sense. If it is wrong for me to receive love, then it is also wrong for me to give it because by giving it I am causing somebody else to receive it, which I had presupposed was the wrong thing to do.

So I am making a commitment to stop. And I am going to start loving myself for who I am. It won’t be easy, but a lot of best things aren’t either. I will have to be careful to not cross the fine line between self-love and conceit.

This does not, however, open the flood gates for everyone to compliment me at will. I’ll go crazy. But, if it is deserved, then I will do my best to accept it graciously. I’ll probably have a rough time with this at the beginning, so I’ll be counting on you and God to help me through when I need it.

4 Responses to “A Commitment”

  1. Jasmine Says:

    This post makes me very happy. Congratulations on this step of growth Justin!


  2. Tony Says:

    I’m glad to hear this, Justin. I’ll try to help out by cutting out my stream of witty put-downs ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Rodney Says:

    Awesome, Justin! I’m glad to hear that God is still working in your life and is helping you get rid of your burdens. This post is making me think about myself and my own monkeys – thanks for the food for thought.

  4. Emily Says:

    so the next time I tell you that you play guitar well….. ๐Ÿ™‚ Cuz I really do think that you do play well….

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