Every week, I meet up with a group of my friends from church and, amongst other things, we pray together. We go around the group and talk about situations in our lives that need prayer, and in the weeks following we check in with each other about how those situations are going (we also eat cake and go off on a lot of tangents, just in case this is sounding super holy). And so a few months ago, when we were going round the room with prayer requests and someone said, “Oh, Chloe, how’s that thing going that you were talking about the other week?” I shouldn’t have been caught off-guard – but I was.
I had originally mentioned that someone I knew was going through a tough situation, but since then I hadn’t had any updates. I didn’t have anything to report a few weeks later when the group asked how the person was, and I felt terrible. Why didn’t I know the latest news? Why hadn’t I gone round, or text to check in, or asked someone else how they were getting on? In the space of a few seconds, I ran through a million excuses in my mind as to why I didn’t know anything new, but in the end I gave up and said, “To be honest, I’m a terrible human and I don’t really know.”
The conversation moved on, we prayed for the person anyway, and everyone went home while I continued to berate myself for my terribleness and resolved to be better. But later that evening, I had a text from my friend Reb that said:
“Hey just to say I think you’re a wonderful human being! I noticed this evening that you said several times that you were a terrible one and I think you should stop saying that about yourself because you’re not.”
Damn, I like that girl.
Do you ever find that you’re way harder on yourself than you would be if your best friend found themselves in that situation? It’s not just a case of acknowledging you’ve done something wrong so you can fix it; you swim in the guilt. You beat yourself up. You tell yourself over and over that you’re the worst person in the world and, in my case, you tell other people too because you’re worried that’s what they secretly think of you.
But imagine your best friend in that situation. Imagine they had messed up or fallen short, would you berate them so heavily? Would you speak such horrible things over them? Would you shoot down all their excuses and demand why they’re so rubbish at life? Unless you’re a crappy friend, I don’t think you would. You’d build that person back up. You’d look after them. You’d say, “Yes you might have made a mistake, but you did have this reason and that reason and you’re doing the best job you can.”
I’m not saying tough love doesn’t have its place, or that we should let ourselves off the hook for everything we do, but I think we need to be better friends to ourselves. I think we need to acknowledge the times we mess up, but also acknowledge that we’re human and that’s part of the deal. Sometimes we’re busy and we drop the ball. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own stuff that we let someone down. Sometimes we just forget, or don’t listen, or think more about ourselves than we do about someone else. That’s not great, but you’re not a terrible human being – you’re a pretty standard human being, because none of us are perfect.
So the next time you find yourself beating yourself up for falling short, imagine you’re speaking to your best friend. Imagine how you would feel if you heard her talking about herself the way you’re talking now. Imagine what you’d say to her if you were outside of the situation, and treat yourself accordingly. It’s not a case of getting off scot-free; it’s about giving the thing you’ve done the level of chastisement it deserves – no more, no less. Then, if you can, you fix it, and you move on. You don’t need to wallow in your terribleness, you need to be fair to yourself.
And, if that doesn’t work, get yourself a Reb to remind you that you’re wonderful – friends like that are worth their weight in gold.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti