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Topic: Acceptance (01/12/04)
TITLE: I Don't Like Myself
By Violet Nesdoly
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I was reading through old journals the other day when something my son said while in kindergarten caught my attention: “I don’t like myself because Keith and Sam don’t like me.”
That has been me too, I thought, as I recalled the time we moved to a new city and the phone never rang. Or the time at my new job when the coffee break conversation swirled around me as if I weren’t there. Even going to church isn’t necessarily a solution to regaining a sense of acceptance. For when the only smile comes from the appointed greeter at the door, when no one comes to sit beside you until the usher asks everyone move over, when an apparent friendly handshake at the “Welcome-to-our-church” time is cancelled out by eyes that, before they meet yours, slide away to find the next person, you may find yourself leaving with your self-esteem more tattered than when you came in.
My son’s words took on new meaning, though, the day I heard the story of Hamed. One Saturday night this 14-year-old honor roll student decided he’d had enough. No longer able to face the relentless teasing about getting good grades, not smoking and drinking, and after months of being called “geek” and “four eyes” and “faggot,” feeling friendless and hopeless, he sneaked out of the house, made his way to a local bridge and jumped to his death.
But, we ask, how can such an extreme reaction ever be justified? Even if one feels lonely, unaccepted and unloved, shouldn’t it be enough to know that God loves me?
It should, and it shouldn’t. Actually, it’s about as much comfort telling me God loves me when I’m aching for the friendly eyes, interested ears and the acceptance of my peers as it is to tell an outcast teenager that his parents love him. Hamed, it turns out, had a loving and concerned family. Even so he felt he couldn’t face life.
But God has a solution for such a dilemma. In answer to our question ‘Does God love us?’ He sent Jesus whose life of love reached a climax in His death for us. As Jesus gave Himself for us, so we, His followers, are to give ourselves to others (Ephesians 4:32-5:1).
We start by loving those nearest us – our families (Ephesians 5:21-6:4) and our friends and fellow Christians (Ephesians 4:1-6). But that’s only a beginning. We are told to love the ‘alien’ or stranger (Leviticus 19:34; Matthew 25:35) which includes everyone from the person whose race or lifestyle differs from ours, to the social outcast, to the person who acts inappropriately because of mental illness or disability. We are even to love our enemies (Proverbs 26:21,22; Romans 12:20). In fact, the followers of Jesus are to be known for their culture of love and acceptance (I John 4:19-21).
Now, years later, my son is no longer concerned about being liked by Keith and Sam. In fact judging from the ringing phone and the hours he spends chatting online, he’s found quite a comfortable social niche. I’ve also adjusted to my neighborhood and settled in to a church home. With our acceptance needs met, it’s easy for us to go blithely on our way, forgetful of how it felt to be lonely and hurting, unmindful of the desperation around us.
But when we feel secure in our relationship with God and others, more than ever we are in a position to be God’s kind eyes, His listening ears and hugging arms. We owe it to all the potential Hamed’s that our lives may, even now, be touching.
Copyright © Violet Nesdoly 2004