Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to quiet your harsh inner judge

Criticism from your personal, inner judge can be unrelenting and over-bearing. Your voice recedes as the judge’s voice magnifies: You are not enough. You are incompetent. You have no value.

So it can be your own domineering judge who frightens you into being and behaving as someone else. It’s time to get ruthless with your inner judge who harshly convicts and condemns your irrational inadequacies.

Getting ruthless with that lying judge has to do with getting real. Oddly enough, we challenge those lies by first getting real and ruthless with others. Relationship is often where those judging lies germinate. Therefore, relationship is where we expose the judge. Next we get real and ruthless with ourselves. This is where we look within to confront the judge who has taken up residence. Finally getting ruthless and real with God means we dare to believe His love for us trumps our lying, blaming, critical judge within.

1) Get real and ruthless with others
What we believe about ourselves is not always accurate. The perspective of others who know us, and are for us, can help us refute a harsh inner judge who accuses, You aren’t worthy to belong. When we bring our true self into community, safe people reflect truth back to us.

Recently in a leadership process group, I balked when all eight pairs of eyes were on me. Even though I did not want to be their sole focus, I secretly craved their acceptance. My persistent judge privately condemned, Your childhood left you wounded and weak. You are pitiful. Pity judged me weak, incompetent, voiceless, and therefore having no value.

Emotional trauma specialist, Dr. Sheri Keffer, challenges us to dredge up those wounds and confront them: “Take it out and process within a safe environment so that trauma doesn’t get stored in the unconscious place of your brain, the place that drives your behavior. Storing unhealed wounds in this place causes disharmony, bad habits, poor decision-making, and physically affects the body, brain and immune system….it shrinks our lives.”

In group, I had to be willing to re-open wounds and dig out the gunk. Within the safety of fellow strugglers, I had to get real and ruthlessly expose my weaknesses, my shortcomings and my flaws. One of those strugglers actually described such experience as “enjoyable and needful times together to notice what God is doing and saying in our lives. We acknowledge our forward movements, as well as naming our challenges.” No pity or judge here.

In community, we give and receive, something we cannot possibly achieve in isolation. As cheerleaders and sometimes soldiers, we affirm, listen, and seek to understand one another. We receive validation of our experiences and the truth of our pain, “Julie, mothers should not abandon their children. Young girls need a mom. I’m sorry you did not have a mom who cared more about you.”

2) Get real and ruthless with yourself
I was the one who lugged shame-filled pity into our group and hoisted its bulk right up into my lap. Those weighty, accusing lies attached themselves to my soul long ago: You are not enough for your mother to stay. You don’t matter. My value vanished along with my mother. And the inner judge took up residence in the void.

I had been harboring that no-value thinking and it was oozing out in disingenuous behaviors. Devalued Julie showed up and receded into the background by quieting her voice. At other times, Compensating Julie cheated pity by inventing confidence and competence. First century Paul of Tarsus explained my struggle: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”

I stood up and the burden in my lap crashed onto the floor. I shoved the debris aside. In a small clearing, Real Julie confessed to the group: “Now that you know all this about me, do you find me pitiful? Even though I have devalued myself and also over-compensated, can you accept me?”

My group did not reflect my any pity back at me. Their responses pushed the pity bits further away, “I accept you…You belong here...I value your participation in our group…You matter to us.”

3) Get real and ruthless with God
Within a few days of pushing pity out of the way, I received a book, Ruthless Trust. My gift book from a loving daughter-in-law illuminated the new space where I dared to stand: “Self-absorption fades into self-forgetfulness, as we fix our gaze on the brightness of the Lord.” Brennan Manning describes this shift from self-pity to trust: “Many a believer’s perception of God and people often begins with a debased image of ourselves…Our trust in Jesus grows as we shift from making self-conscious efforts to be good to allowing ourselves to be loved as we are (not as we should be)…There is nothing any of us can do to increase His love for us and nothing we can do to diminish it.”

Like the needless binding of feet to keep them small, lies bound my life. You can’t do that; don’t even attempt it. Disparate threads rewind to create a different yarn, one that was first spun long, long ago: His-story is our story. Do I dare trust that God loves me when I have judged and pitied myself for so many years? And others? Is God’s love and acceptance big enough to squelch the judge who limits my value and my life?

Manning’s love of God invites me to risk responding despite the fear: “Yet the mysterious love of God is fierce enough to penetrate even those who think that they cannot receive it.” Trusting in the love of Jesus soothes the accusations of the harsh inner judge. The weft of love weaves over the warp of lies. Real patterns emerge in the design: I am worth loving. I have value. I matter.

Aged lies, distorted thinking, immature ways of being are interrupted and exposed. Nothing is the same. All is laid bare with others, self and God. The judge has been muzzled. I speak up, I am enough.


Trish said...

Thank you, Julie, for speaking well such life-giving truth. I appreciate your using the gift of words God has blessed you with to bless me through your writing.

Julie Voorhees said...

I like hearing that you have been blessed by my revealing honesty. Sometimes, I think "too much information". But as letting my guard down is good for me, AND another is blessed by it, then God must be pleased too.Thanks for letting me know that my vulnerability has revealed something for you as well. So glad we can connect like this.