As a licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship coach, I come across many heartbreaking stories of abuse. I am distraught by the horrible way people can speak to and behave toward one another. The meaning of abuse is still a touchy subject for some, but our society is realizing more and more that emotional abuse is as serious as physical abuse. Emotional injuries are not as visible but they can take longer to heal than bruises or broken bones. Some forms of abuse are covert and hard to detect, yet they take root in the mind of the victim and often become the basis for self abuse.
We are called to steward ourselves well. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” We have the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us in caring for ourselves because we are reminded that we are to be the holy temple of God. Stewarding yourself well is a challenging concept to think about. When I talk about stewardship or self care, I often describe it as parenting yourself well.
If you had abusive parents or have been in a destructive relationship, you may struggle to parent yourself well. Moreover if you have been in a coercive and controlling relationship, you may have lost sight of who you are. You may have been manipulated to believe lies. Destructive words may have twisted blame and reality causing deep confusion. What would it be like for you to live in freedom without lies, blame and confusion?
A good parent cares about their children and helps them become the best version of themselves, encouraging them to live in truth, helping them grow to take responsibility for their own lives, and offering clear and kind communication. A good parent advocates for their children’s health, safety and sanity. Is this how you care for yourself? If not, you may be in a destructive relationship with yourself.
Let me give you some steps to move forward into a better intrapersonal relationship; because the most important relationship you will have is the one you have with yourself and the Spirit living within you.
Create safety and belonging. In order to parent yourself well, you will need to ensure that you have safety in your environment as well as a group of people who will support you. It is important to discern which people in your life will be trustworthy, reliable, caring, and honest. Upholding your boundaries will help you develop physical and emotional safety for yourself.
Become aware of your thoughts. You are made up of much more than just your thoughts and your thoughts are not necessarily true. If you are not aware of our thoughts, you may be living life based on faulty beliefs or lies. You may have absorbed the messages you received earlier on in your life without challenging their validity.
Tune into your emotions. Just like thoughts, emotions are just part of your experience and they should not dictate your behaviors. Your emotions are there to give you information so that you can care for yourself well.
Stop judging yourself. Get curious about your thoughts and emotions without becoming critical. Pause, reflect and explore why you are thinking and feeling the way you do. As you evaluate the information your body is sending you, you will be better prepared to make wise decisions about how you will choose to respond and behave.
Develop self compassion. Positive self-talk is so important. If you have had significant but critical people in your life, you may hear their voice in your head as your own. Practice speaking to yourself like a healthy parent would speak to their toddler.
Take care of your health. Good parents make sure their children are well fed, get proper sleep, are clean and have regular medical checkups. Maintaining mental and physical health takes time and effort but it is well worth the investment. You are worth the investment.
Get to know yourself and God’s purpose for your life. Psalm 92:11-15 encourages us, “But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit: they will remain vital and green. They will declare, ‘The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in Him.’” God intends for you to thrive and use your time on earth well. Get to know the gifts and talents the Lord has instilled in you. Pay attention to your likes and dislikes. Make note of what moves you and energizes your soul. You are uniquely made and God has a plan for your life.
Life is too short to subject yourself to abuse if you can prevent it. There are many things you will not have control of in your lifetime, but how you treat yourself is 100% within your control. Develop a loving relationship with yourself.
I will close with a charge from Ephesians 2:10; for you are God’s masterpiece. He has created you anew in Christ Jesus, so you can do the good things he planned for you long ago. Know this for it is true; you are valued and you are loved.