This is a tricky one, because the last thing I want to do is make anyone feel bad about themselves. I honestly believe we can’t give away what we don’t have. So if we don’t know how to love our own selves, we certainly won’t be able to love anyone else properly.
You cannot love yourself, but more importantly you cannot receive the Lord’s love and grace, His forgiveness of sins, if you aren’t willing to develop some self awareness about who you really are. Honest self awareness. So rather than “making people feel bad about themselves,” I really just want to make some room for Christ to shine through.
You can’t just “be a good person” in faith. We aren’t saved by our good person status, just as “good people” are not protected from landslides, tornadoes, or car accidents out in the world. Being good does not protect you. We don’t earn grace by virtue of being “a good person.”
Sometimes Christians are the ones who need to understand this concept the most. At least in the West, we sometimes have this performance based religious spirit that tries to rear it’s ugly head.
So set Christianity and religious biases aside for just a moment, and let me draw from philosophy and psychology, perhaps the ancient Greeks and a bit of Carl Jung. It is necessary to know thyself in faith. “To thine own self be true.” All in good humor here, but if one can easily proclaim “I am a good person,” then one cannot possibly know thyself fully.
Yesterday yet another atheist told me, “I can’t believe you think you need a magic book to tell you how to be a good person.” Well, I really do! I think that without God we have no standard for what is “good,” without the Bible we have no ability to see ourselves as we really are, and without Jesus we have no way of fixing any of it.
Said atheist bases her own conviction that she is “a good person” on the idea that she only eats “plant based protein” and she rescues animals. That’s lovely, but I recently read an article about a couple of animal conservationists who cared about animals so, so much, they are now being investigated for the disappearance of several poachers! It was really creepy. So caring about animals is probably not the only marker we should be looking at.
We people tend to justify and rationalize or “rational-lies” nearly everything we do. We don’t really see our own shadow selves, we don’t see our capacity for “not good” and when we find ourselves there in that very place, we just rationalize and excuse it away. I’m not really a thief, I just borrowed some paperclips from work. I’m not really a liar, that was just a white lie. Was I suppose to tell her that dress she was wearing adds 40 pounds and resembles my grandmother’s table cloth?
I once knew a woman in the throes of addiction who stabbed her boyfriend in the leg a few times because she loved him “so, so much” and just wanted him to understand “what a good person” she really was. Obviously “good” can be a rather subjective matter of opinion.
Circumstances also play a significant role. I assure you I am a wonderful person when I have enough coffee, no scarcity operating in my life, and the birds are singing. Take away too much of my security, safety, and coffee and things can get sketchy fast. Heck, take my sweater away and turn on the air conditioning and my whole disposition can quickly change…
This is just personal opinion on my part, but I happen to believe that a great deal of what afflicts us as people, as communities, has to do with all the energy required to mask ourselves, to hide away our true nature, even from ourselves. Addiction, at least in the beginning, is certainly about trying to numb out and avoid pain. Many of our mental health issues, depression, anxiety, have to do with fear and avoidance. Much of our isolation, loneliness, and despair has to do with not realizing how much we are like everyone else, flaws and all.
There is a lot going on in Mark 10:18 where Jesus says, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” So even Jesus, perfect, sin free, willing to lay down His life for all of humankind, objects to the “good” person label. What is “good” about Him is the Father. He is proclaiming His Divinity, establishing His identity, but He is also making the point that, “there is none righteous, not one.”
So my bit of truth today is, don’t wait until you are a “good person” to find Jesus and don’t think being a good person is good enough. As somebody smart once said, “Christians are not good people, they are saved people.”