Embrace Your Own Reality

For too long have you denied reality: you wanted to be like everybody else without realizing that everybody else is not like everybody else. Given that each one of us is unique, and so very much unlike so many billion others, we may all have commonalities but not be completely identical. You cannot be expected to actually be and think and look and act and talk like any other individual than you. The sooner you embrace the reality of who you are the better off you will be emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually.

As Christians, we believe that God is the ultimate truth, the ultimate reality. God properly contextualizes truth and reality. Truth is often defined as that which corresponds with reality. Why, then, do so many people attempt to deny their own inner reality? Who taught us to fear? Your unique personality -- with all your quirks and flaws and coy ways, your passions, desires, hopes, struggles, imperfections, and rare qualities -- all of these are distinctly yours and only yours. Who taught you how to fear yourself?

A woman messaged me recently: "I'm such a horrible person." But that is exactly what shame was trying to accomplish within her: shame sought to rob her of her self-worth in order to destroy her. Guilt tells her that she did something wrong; shame tells her that she is something wrong. Shame is the worst motivator. Shame has one goal: destroy the image of God within such a wonderful creature. (Gen. 1:27) Henri Nouwen reminds us:
We have to live our life, not someone else's. We have to hold our own cup. We have to dare to say, "This is my life, the life that is given to me, and it is this life that I have to live, as well as I can. My life is unique. Nobody else will ever live it. I have my own history, my own family, my own body, my own character, my own friends, my own way of thinking, speaking, and acting -- yes, I have my own life to live. No one else has the same challenge. I am alone, because I am unique. Many people can help me to live my life but after all is said and done, I have to make my own choices about how to live."
Let those words sink deep within your psyche. If you must live your own life, if you must drink the contents of your own cup, then should you allow anyone else to control your life, your emotions, your will? Should you allow others to shame you, or manipulate you, dictate how you are to think, feel, and behave? Will you allow yourself to be poured into the mold in which others think you should be formed? If so, then which others, which mold? Into which version of "you" do you imagine you should be transformed? Resist!


If you will, "you" must always remain "you," for you cannot be anyone else. Denying "you" is to deny reality, truth, and the One who properly contextualizes both is God. Self-loathing, then, is to loathe the image of God within you. But this concept works even for the non-religious: wallowing in shame and self-hatred for being your quirky self is a betrayal of your own reality. You should embrace reality, embrace truth, and reconcile with your estranged self. Your life is merely complicated by indulging in feelings of self-loathing, self-disgust, and thinking that you are unworthy of love and of life.

Even if you are being unethical, unloving, arrogant or abusive, understand that your actions are merely symptoms of a deeper issue, and you need to address and confront the reason for your actions rather than focus on how bad you are acting. Pouring contempt upon yourself for your poor decisions and resultant behavior will only lead to further poor decisions and resultant behavior. But that subject is not my primary focus here.

What I am most concerned about are those people who are hating themselves for being themselves -- not for the bad thoughts or feelings or actions that they may be exhibiting but those who hate their personality or peculiar character or sense of humor or odd traits or special talents or being bland or intelligent or comical. Some people hate themselves for being diabetic, bi-polar, or a host of other issues. Some people fear being judged for being religious, others for being non-religious, and others for not caring one way or another.

But what all people share in common is their basic humanity. Gay, straight, bi, pan, trans, undecided, questioning; educated, not-so-educated; rich, not-so-rich; tall, short, muscled, skinny; we are all human beings. We are not black humans and white humans and brown humans and yellow humans; we are all human beings. You cannot compare yourself to any other human being because you are only you and can be only you. You cannot be another. You do not need conversion therapy to be any other you than the you who you already are in this reality. Stop denying the truth. Embrace your own reality and live.


Henri J.M. Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup? Tenth Anniversary Edition (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2008), 31-32.


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.