Because we are adult children, some of us are totally wrapped up in ourselves and can only see life from a self-centered viewpoint. Everything revolves around us. "I want, I feel, I believe, I need" often dominate our conversation. Focusing on our own problems sometimes becomes an obsession. Or, we may behave in the opposite manner and become totally self-effacing, obsessed with others’ problems and seldom considering our own difficulties. Neither of these extremes will lead to wholeness and healing, nor will they initiate and support healthy relationships. In either case, the insanity of our parental home often drives us to prove ourselves to others. Our need to excel in all that we do causes us to focus on our performance rather than accepting that we are worthy just as we are. Some of us may lose sight of our true selves through fear, self-delusion, or fantasy. Ultimately, we may become self-centered. Many of us were not taught that we were created by God and made in his image and likeness. "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good…" GENESIS 1:31 (KJV).
God made everything-oceans, mountains, seasons, animals and people-to be unique and different. We are all individual miracles of God’s creativity. "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret Place. When I was woven together in the depths of earth, your eyes saw my unformed body; All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." PSALM 139:13-16 (NIV).
Instead of understanding that we are cherished, we may have been led to believe that we were unwanted. Perhaps we felt fortunate even to have been born, although in times of great pain we may not feel grateful. Our ability to accept ourselves as we are, and as God intends us to be, was hindered during these early days of trauma, rejection and abandonment. Thus, it is not surprising that our self-identity became distorted.
Often, members of a pain-inflicting family system suffer severe abuse. Such mistreatment can be physical, verbal, sexual, or emotional, and each of these forms of attack harms us in various ways. Verbal abuse can damage our self-esteem and physical abuse can threaten our very lives. Sexual abuse makes it difficult for us to have healthy relationships, whereas emotional abuse can inhibit our ability to cope with even the normal trials of life. Any harassment we may have suffered from others can cause us to become self-centered as a defense against pain.
Having experienced abuse as children, we sometimes set ourselves up to harm our own bodies with self-destructive, unloving and life-threatening behavior. If we were molested by our parents or caretakers, we may have trouble understanding the sacred nature of our bodies or believing they were created to be a dwelling place for God.
Sexual abuse can be especially damaging to our emotional and spiritual development. The Bible teaches us that sexual immorality or impurity can cause us to sin against our own body. "…The body is not meant
for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body…All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? Thu are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." 1 CORINTHIANS 6:13,18-20 (NIV).
Another problem that can give rise to self-centeredness is the pride, deception and striving that can become so deeply rooted in our lives when we are raised in a dysfunctional home. Illustrations of this can be found in three stories of Jacob and Esau in the book of Genesis, chapters 25-36. Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, gave birth to twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau was born first and, therefore, was entitled to his father’s birthright and inheritance". Isaac favored Esau and Rebekah was partial to Jacob.
The first story tells of the day Esau came in famished, and Jacob refused to give him food until Esau sold him his birthright. We can clearly see Jacob’s deception as he conned his elder brother Esau out of his birthright.
The second story happened when Isaac was old and his eyes weak. Rebekah persuaded Jacob to pretend he was Esau and take food to Isaac to receive the blessing Isaac had promised Esau. We watch Jacob follow his mother Rebekah’s plan of deception to gain his father Isaac’s blessing. Rebekah modeled and taught Jacob to deceive, lie and con in order to get what she wanted from her husband, Isaac. Meanwhile she pretended that she ‘was doing all this for her child.
The third story comes many years later when Jacob and his tribes were preparing to meet Esau and his tribes. Jacob wanted to greet Esau warmly and give him many gifts but was afraid of how his brother would react to him. While waiting for Esau to arrive, Jacob wrestled with a man and wrenched his hip which caused him to limp. Jacob would not let the man depart until the man blessed him. After Jacob told the man his name, the man said "…your name will no longer be Jacob, but
Jacob’s stories can help us learn about our own lives. Our parents may have used us as pawns in their manipulative games" much like Rebekah used Jacob. We may have learned to lie, deceive and con to please someone else, as Jacob did. Like Esau, we often sell our birthrights and harbor bitterness, revenge and other violence in our hearts. Like Jacob, we might have to go through years of suffering the consequences of our selfish behavior before we ever get to the point of surrender to God. We may need to wrestle with God and become handicapped like Jacob did before we learn that we can no longer play God and ,that we need to turn over our brokenness to him before we can be healed.
When our self-image is damaged, we may develop certain characteristics, beliefs and behaviors in an effort to protect ourselves from the harsh realities of our lives. As a result of our low self-image, we may become one or more of the following:
Acting as though we believe the world revolves around us.
Wanting to always be right and constantly trying to justify our actions.
Not seeing ourselves and our lives realistically; rather, concocting fantasies that we begin to believe and act upon.
Wearing facades or masks in an attempt to cover up our true state of being. Constantly denying our true feelings, reactions, or motives.
Concentrating on our own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without
regard for others. .
Acting as though we believe we are better than everyone else.
Behaving as though we are the only one who knows what is best for us and for our families. Convincing ourselves we .can be healed without help from God or anyone else.
Indulging in life-threatening behaviors which can destroy us mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Any or all of these conditions can keep us from finding our true selves in Christ. If we are to be all that we were created to be, there is a journey to self-discovery awaiting us; and, if we let him, Christ will be our guide.
Whether we want to believe it or not, we were created in the image and likeness of God, and God wants us to fulfill the potential he created in each of us. This image is our true self, deep within, submerged inside our wounded child and striving to be liberated. When we allow the child within to be healed and liberated by the loving touch of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to discover who we were created to be.
God has blessed each of us with worth, uniqueness, gifts, talents, personality, vocation and purpose. Our birthright, inheritance and identity were purchased by the death of his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This realization can certainly have-a positive impact on our self-image and can help us greatly in our recovery.
As we turn from our dysfunctional, damaged selves and become the person God created us to be, we can begin to put our faith in Christ, rather than in ourselves. We can begin to see who we are in Christ, rather than who we are apart from him. We can come to know that it is through the Holy Spirit that we can realize our full potential.
In transforming ourselves into Christ-centered beings, we go through a metamorphosis from self-orientation to Christ-orientation. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"2 CORINTHIANS 5:17 (NIV). During this process, we undergo numerous changes, much like the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly. Our lives become less self-centered as we leave the pain of our past behind us and gradually learn to put more of our trust in God. .
There are some major changes that occur in our behavior when we undergo a metamorphosis as the Holy Spirit works in us:
§ learn to stop playing God and submit our lives to Christ.
We realize that surrendering to Christ is more effective than praying God. "…if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame. ‘" ROMANS 10: 9-11 (NIV).
§ exchange our preoccupation with self for a life in Christ.
We no longer put our main emphasis on ourselves. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." GALATIANS 2:20 (NIV).
§ nurture our new true self by examining ourselves in the light of God’s word.
"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you…For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth are glad whenever we are weak, but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection…" 2 CORINTHIANS 13:5,8-9 (NIV). "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…" 2 CORINTHIANS 12:9 (NIV). Christ shows his strength through us when we are willing to depend on him. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…" 2 PETER 3:18 (NIV).
§ live our new lives in service to God.
Our body can now become a vessel for God to use as he chooses. Through our new self, our true self in Christ, we can express our values, gifts and calling. "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifice God is pleased." HEBREWS 13:15-16 (NIV). Our new life is marked with sacrificial living, praise, worship and service to others.
§ In our new true self, there is a new hunger.
We no longer strive for acceptance; instead, we desire constantly to please our Heavenly Father. As we become Christ-centered, we cease striving fruitlessly for perfection and become content with who we were made to be. Our new self becomes fulfilled as the Holy Spirit works in us, and we are more able to appreciate the beauty of God’s great gift of life. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, Pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace’ given me I say to everyone of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." ROMANS 12:1-3 (NIV).
List the distortions you see in yourself-image.
Describe situations which demonstrate that you are self-centered. What can you do to correct this?
What obstacles do. you see in your own behavior that keep you from becoming more Christ-like?
How can you nurture yourself by living in the light of God’s word?
Cite examples that indicate you are becoming Christ-centered.
What was special for you on this day?
Recovery Tool: Making Amends
The following material, adapted from The Twelve Steps-A Spiritual Journey, can help us understand the importance of making amends to those we have hurt by our dysfunctional behavior.
Being willing to make amends improves our relationships with ourselves and others and leads us out of isolation and loneliness. As we continue to welcome Christ’s presence into our hearts, we can develop a new openness with others that prepares us for the face-to-face admission of our past misconduct. With this tool, we examine each past misdeed and identify those involved. Our intention is to make amends in order to heal our past so that God can transform the present.
As Christians, we are taught the importance of having and maintaining deep, loving relationships. Through Christ’s example, we see how he devoted his ministry to loving people and encouraging them to love one another. Jesus taught us that being reconciled to God requires reconciliation with other human beings. In this process, we prepare ourselves to carry out God’s master plan for our lives by becoming willing to make amends. Once we have prepared our list of those whom we have harmed, we are able to extend our love and acceptance not only to the injured .persons, but to all members of God’s family.
When thinking about persons we have harmed, we see how our behavior has played a major part in sabotaging our lives and our relationships. The following behaviors are typical for adult children and are seen in many of us. Describe a recent situation when you behaved this way, or
describe a situation showing the progress you have made in this area. If this behavior is not an issue for you, note that. Discuss your responses with friends in recovery to see how they perceive your behavior in these areas.
§ When we become angry, we often harm ourselves more than others. This may result in feelings of depression or self-pity.
§ Persistent financial problems resulting from our irresponsible actions cause difficulty with our family and creditors.
§ When confronted with an issue about which we feel guilty, we lash out at others rather than looking honestly at ourselves.
§ Frustrated by our lack of control, we behave aggressively and intimidate those around us.
§ Because of our indiscriminate sexual behavior, true intimacy is impossible to achieve or maintain.
§ Our fear of abandonment sometimes destroys our relationships, because we do not allow others to be themselves. We create dependency and try to control another’s behavior in an effort to maintain the relationship as we want it to be.
§ While trying to fulfill our unmet needs, we often become obsessive or compulsive.
§ When we feel uneasy around other people, we often tend to isolate ourselves.
§ We often compare ourselves to others and feel inferior.
§ Afraid to take emotional risks, we often withhold our feelings, are uncommunicative or give in to others’ wants and needs.
Describe what you consider to be your outer, apparent self.
Describe what you consider to be your inner, true self.
Describe your uniqueness, gifts and calling in Christ.
What does "making amends" mean to you?
Share a meaningful experience in using the journal as part of your recovery process.
What is your prayer request for yourself or others?