All of us have learnt to live with conditions on the way we behave, but often we don’t realise how many of these we carry. We relate to the world from inner and outer controls and these have become very much a part of us, so much so that we hardly know they are there.
As unique creations we each so long to be free, to be our deepest selves. Yet, as we are so afraid of rejection, we continue to play the relating game as is expected. We may feel scared of letting our guard down so we keep up that smile and pretend that all is just fine with us. Only a small part of our real selves is then visible. We each so want to be okay, but the, “If…then…” condition has become the story of our lives. We question ourselves and others with an, “Am I…?” or “Are you…?” either good-looking, rich, successful enough, etc. If we judge ourselves and others as lacking we may find it hard to love. This inner struggle may well result in self-loathing when we find ourselves unable to keep up our outer veneer. The pressure to conform and to only present what ‘they would want’ means that others get deceived, for the person they see is a distortion, not the one that is really there.
We were created out of an overflow of God’s love and He longs for us to really be that self. Though none of us has experienced it from fellow humans, deep in our cellular memory we know that unconditional acceptance does exist. For, it is love that transforms us, not an, “If you…then…”.
Can we begin to risk taking the conditions off and to let go of the restraints and judgments we have learnt to put on ourselves? Though guidance and structure was helpful to form us as children, yet this risked destabilising our trust of ourselves to respond to a situation appropriately. This mistrust of ourselves and others set us up for feeling betrayed. How people behaved, spoke and how they felt came across as three different messages. So, while on the one level the conversation might have been polite, a very different message was being conveyed.
Rules do produce certain predictable behaviours, but they never produce wholehearted engagement. We find people heaping conditions onto others to try to distract themselves from the pain of not facing and accepting themselves.
Jesus wants to release us from all that has buttoned up our true selves. It will take courage to intentionally listen to those voices that have controlled us for so long, and to hear what they say. As we learn to trust ourselves in small ways for different options for our behaviour, so we will grow more confident to be liberated in bigger areas. Jesus doesn’t look over our shoulder and say, “Hey, careful! I’m watching you,” but gently encourages us with, “I see you just as you really are. Risk becoming real. I am with you all the way!”