How to Stop Being So Hard on Yourself

I glanced at the Waze GPS app on my phone. Great. I was on my way to a group who’d invited me to visit after discussing one of my books. Before I was even out of my driveway the estimated time of arrival said I’d arrive five minutes late.

Why can’t you leave on time? What’s wrong with you? My thoughts chided me.

This line of thinking neither helped me make up for lost time or prepared my heart to encourage the women I’d see. I thought of a book I’d recently finished with an imperfect heroine. If she ran late I didn’t love her less. I empathized with her. So why was I so hard on myself?

I shifted my thoughts off myself and onto God. I thanked Him for making me who I am. I asked Him to help me do better and to work this situation out for good—and to help me arrive on time!

A woman pulled in behind me as I parked my car. She jumped out of her car and raced to open the door. “I was so glad to see you drive up. If I walk in with the speaker I’m not late.” We both laughed.

God used my timing to build a bond. I entered relaxed and happy to be there. Would that have happened if I’d stayed self-absorbed brooding over my weaknesses?

Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by...deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Ephes. 4:22-23 #truth, #freedom Share on X

Reading how God dealt with His flawed children in the Bible has helped me learn to give myself grace when I disappoint myself. God appeared to Jacob and gave him a spectacular dream in which the Lord stood at the top of a ladder that spanned the gap between heaven and earth and His angels ascended and descended it (Gen. 28:10-17).

God blessed Jacob in the dream and promised to give Jacob and his descendants the land of Canaan. “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (v. 14, NIV). God was passing the blessing of Abraham to Jacob.

What amazed me about this scene is its timing.

The Lord revealed Himself and the promise to Jacob after Jacob had just deceived his father. Jacob was fleeing his brother Esau’s wrath.

God showed similar grace with Abraham. A pagan king took Abraham’s wife Sarah into his haram because Abraham told everyone that she was his sister. When the king discovered the truth, he reprimanded Abraham and had him escorted out of the country (Gen. 12:10-20).

I’m sure God didn’t condone this lapse on Abraham’s part, but He never mentioned it. Abraham had suffered the consequences of his deception. That was enough. Instead, in the next recorded conversation between God and Abraham, God gently reassures him and shows him the land He will give him.

If God is patient with us, shouldn’t we emulate Him and extend grace and patience to ourselves as well?  Living in regret doesn’t help us move forward. But if we surrender it to God, He can use our weaknesses for His glory and our good.

Perhaps the key to accepting ourselves—which precedes the ability to unconditionally love others—comes from seeing ourselves as our Lord sees us. “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Ephes. 1:4 NLT). When He looks at us, He sees what we will be.

And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory” (Romans 8:30 NLT).

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  1. Toni Wilbarger

    Debbie, this is the main thing I struggle with nearly every day. I have only been made aware of it the last few years, though. When I’d speak to someone about problems I was having, it seemed nearly everyone came back with this statement: “You’ve got to stop being so hard on yourself.” But this problem goes so far back in my life that there is no way I can stop it on my own. You’ve given me some very important “nuggets” of truth in this post, and I thank you for it. Your words are an answer to this morning’s prayer. After another evening of sitting around doing nothing when I should have been balancing the checkbook, cleaning the deck, exercising, or doing my own writing, I spent my waking moments berating myself for my laziness. Then I asked God to show me His love for me. Thank you for being the answer to my prayer.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Toni, that thrills my heart to hear God spoke to you through this. It is a battle, a spiritual battle, and the Lord has equipped us to win it. I think I’ll write a follow-up to this. Blessings!

  2. Michele Morin

    I clicked on this post immediately, because I continually fight to keep my self-talk healthy and positive. So true that we are our own worst critics. And I love that God sent someone else along at just the right time to walk into that meeting with you!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Michele, it is a never ending battle. But when I see the gracious heart of my Lord it helps me win the battle. Yes! How sweet that gal walked in with me.

  3. Pam Ecrement

    I love the intro to this post about being late and using Waze. I strongly identify with both of those things and have the same reaction. Even though retired, far too often I seem to be running about 5 minutes behind when I leave the house and of course, that doesn’t allow for traffic, construction, etc. The reasons I am 5 minutes behind are as varied as a box of crayons. Usually they are “good” reasons and among them is failing to keep track of the clock when I am at home. For so many years my life was a “rat race” when I was working full-time, going to graduate school, etc. I would shut off the clock and take off my watch as soon as I arrived home because this was the one place I didn’t want to be held prisoner to the time. Guess if still operate like that at times. Even so, my tardiness can convey disrespect and that is not my intent. I keep working on this!!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Pam, I think I have a few extra minutes so I think I can squeeze in an email or something that always takes longer. When will I ever learn?!

  4. Andy Lee

    Loved this article, Debbie! I will be sharing. 🙂

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thanks, Andy!

  5. Ann Musico

    Love this Debbie. I have always found it more difficult to look at myself as He sees me and as I will be but I try and remind myself that this is what I always did with my children. He is such a good Dad!

    • Debbie Wilson

      He is a good, good father. Love that you did that for you children, Ann!

  6. Amy Carroll

    Oh, Debbie… this is just what I needed this morning. Thank you!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Hugs to you, Amy.

  7. Rosanne Hodgens

    Hi Debbie, Today’s post was so helpful to me. I enjoy all the posts. Will it be O.K. to return to the group at some point? Right now, my mode of transportation is not so good. I really miss attending. Love, Rosanne

    • Debbie Wilson

      Of course, Rosanne! I’ve thought of you many times. I hope you will. And if you can’t get there, consider my online study. Blessings, dear friend.

  8. Melissa Henderson

    Extending grace to myself is often hard to do. I love your message today. This really has me thinking about my perspective. Thank you. 🙂

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Melissa. It looks like many of us need reminding on this.

  9. Sarah Geringer

    I was just doing this today, for no good reason. I had to tell myself out loud, “We’re not doing this today, because God doesn’t think you are bad or stupid for what happened.” It took several tries, but by refocusing on how God sees me, I got there. Loved your story, and I shared it on Pinterest and Twitter.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Sarah. I can’t help but believe this is part of being in spiritual battle.

  10. Kit Tosello

    “Living in regret doesn’t help us move forward. ” Yes! Thank you for reminding me how patient the Father is with me. I needed that! Beautifully written.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Kit, my husband reminded me that this is my message and my battle. 🙂

  11. Sarah

    Ouch! I am definitely my own worst critic. We are usually so much nicer with the same flaws in others. Great words!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Sarah.

  12. Sandra Black

    Always after something I’m involved in I tend to rethink and say to myself that I should have said the thing differently or i should have acted differently. I am always critical of myself even for things that others don’t notice. thank goodness He isn’t.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Amen! He is gracious. Thanks, Sandra.

  13. Theresa Boedeker

    So true. We beat up others less than our self. Offering them grace, and ourselves condemnation. And yet God doesn’t beat us up. Never. Need to be viewing our self through God’s eyes.

    I loved the humor of the lady that arrived the same time as you. So funny. Now if only when I arrived late, someone of importance did too.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Theresa, you are the important ambassador of Christ making someone else feel great. 🙂

  14. Emily | To Unearth

    This is such a hard truth to grasp! It’s funny how we can be so hard on ourselves when Jesus has already forgiven us! Thanks for this reminder today. Visiting from #HeartEncouragement. 🙂

    • Debbie Wilson

      Isn’t it, Emily. This seems to resonate with a lot of us. So we aren’t alone in it.

  15. Lisa notes

    Ugh…I hate being late too. But you’re right that it does no good to kick ourselves. If God is big enough to give us grace (and he is!), the least we can do is open our hands and receive it!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Yes, Lisa. I like the picture of open hands. I think I can squeeze in one more thing!

  16. Tracy Albiero

    I try to remind myself that Jesus died for me so I can’t be all bad. I don’t’ want to waste the life he gave me. #dancewithjesus

    • Debbie Wilson

      Tracy, you’re right. Dwelling on the negative is a waste. Thanks so much.

  17. Ashley Rowland | HISsparrowBlog

    This is a daily struggle for me. So many times I bash myself for some small thing. I’ve gotten to where I ask myself if what I’m berating myself about would cause the same reaction if I saw someone else do the same thing. Usually the answer is no.

    I think the better solution is to learn to see ourselves as God sees us – as you said. I am learning this, but sometimes it seems like such a slow process. Two steps forward…

    Thank you for this encouraging post. I’m sure it’ll stick with me for later.

    Visiting from the Grace and Truth linkup.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Ashley, old habits seem to take time to change. I like how you’ve already started to realize you’d give grace to others in a similar situation. Thankfully, God is at work in us transforming us as we renew our minds with truth! Blessings to you.

  18. Rebecca Jones

    I like to be on time too, I hated being rushed though and I know some who leave way to early. Why sit somewhere for a doctor’s appointment an extra two hours because you’re worried about being late? Abraham was like us under grace, so glad God doesn’t choose to remember things like people. Many people, especially here in the south are probably unaware that Paul calls the law a ministry of death, and that Jesus came and the ministry of the Spirit should be far greater and it should, we do need to quit. beating ourselves up. We have been made free from the law of sin and death.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Well said, Rebecca! What a difference it makes to be under grace.

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