Kicking the Self-Blame Habit
01 August 2006

For the first time I recognised my addiction, the constant habit of blaming myself because of my inadequacies.

I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED MY FAITH to be relevant and longed to be an encourager to young people on their spiritual journeys. Even though I have given my life, as best I know, to what I understand of the Almighty’s plan I have often felt that something was missing. Many of those nearest and dearest haven’t caught the flame, or have been hurt by the fact that my work has often come before them.

For me, getting involved in a series of leadership training programmes in Asia for young people of different nationalities has been the best thing that could have happened. It thrust me out of my mental, physical and spiritual comfort zones. At the start of the first programme in 2001 in India, I realised that I didn’t really know how to be a caring support member. I felt totally inadequate and wondered why on earth I was there. Through several workshops on the family (designed to help people identify childhood experiences which shape adult behaviour) I began to uncover my true feelings and started to find my real self.

Early in my life I had been won to the vision of a world remade through change in the individual, starting with myself. But being a personality type that depends on human approval, I let this dominate my relationships and became a typical loyal supporter, prepared to do the sacrificial thing, even before considering my family’s needs, let alone my own. I tried to be positive and reliable all the time, but underneath I was dogged by persistent doubts and fears and a perception of being inadequate. I often found myself adopting others’ ideas and convictions.

‘Emotional addiction’: these words jumped out at me from a book I was reading last November, whilst in India again helping with the latest training programme. For the first time I recognised my addiction, the constant habit of blaming myself because of my inadequacies. I suddenly understood the self-hate which had triggered the drinking of a family member with an alcohol addiction.

Later, during a church service I found tears running down my face. ‘Why, God’, I asked, ‘am I so weak and inadequate? Why, when I have been giving my life to serve you all these years, trying to follow you?’ I had an image in my mind of a clay pot useless and broken on the floor. ‘How can I ask you to fill me with your love when I am like that?’ I pleaded.

The next day I picked up a book called Steps to Life (ABC Books, 2004) by Joanna Thyer, about the Alcoholics Anonymous programme. The first step to overcoming an addiction, I read, is to recognise one is powerless to change it. I can only ask God to change what I cannot. I now understand the phrase, ‘our weaknesses can be our greatest strengths’. I shared these discoveries with the young people on the training programme and was overwhelmed by the friendship, trust and warmth of heart this engendered. I will always treasure the farewell messages they wrote me and my husband when we returned to New Zealand after seven precious weeks.

Sitting in my local church back home the following Sunday, God gave me a wonderful gift. I saw my life as a beautifully crafted clay pot! Now I want to keep it as a vessel for his love.