There isn’t a single person I know who didn’t have some sort of self-image struggle growing up. Whether it was strife at home, a missing parent, bullies at school, or worse situations, everyone at some time has had questions about their worth as a person.
I remember running home from school, tears streaming down, internalizing some comment from another kid at school. My mother’s first question would always be, “Who told you that?”
It was invariably someone who most likely had issues of their own, but I never saw it that way. The words hurt and I didn’t understand why others would say such things.
The one hurt that stuck with me through the years was the repeated phrase, “You’re ugly.” Every time I let it fester inside, and every time my mother would ask, “Who told you that you were ugly?” She always tried her best to wipe away the pain, but after a while I learned to believe the “ugly” mantra about myself.
Once I started believing it, I acted differently. My self-confidence plummeted, my attitude towards life changed and I began to seek ways to make myself prettier…at least in my own eyes. That began the life-long struggle concerning my self-image.
Of course, last autumn, losing my hair certainly didn’t help. All the old “ugly” feelings came back. All the pain filled my head, swarming my insides as well.
While reading the Tanach, the Hebrew version of the Old Testament, I was suddenly struck by what happened with Adam and Eve after they ate the apple. I loved the book’s commentary about how God called to the man and woman in the garden. God already knew exactly where they were, but He called out in order to enter into conversation with Adam and invite him to repentance.
But what hit me hard was God’s next question, “Who told you that you are naked?” (Tanach 3:11, also the same verse in the Christian version.)
The same words I had heard from my mother, “Who told you…,” came back smacking me in the face. I had never recognized these same words were uttered by God.
And both times they meant the same thing.
The serpent was determined to tell Adam and Eve that they were not enough—that they needed to eat the forbidden fruit to be more like God. They didn’t recognize that they had been made in the image and likeness of God. Nor did they recognize the serpent’s jealousy of them. They needed to be more…
So original sin came from the original lie.
In that moment I was able to see the truth. My mom would tell me that perhaps someone was jealous of me (I couldn’t imagine why), or that they were struggling at home and therefore lashed out at school. Even as an adult, rejection triggered those whispers that it was happening because I was ugly.
Now I see the truth.
Time to let go of the lie I’ve held so close to my heart for most of my life. Time to remember that God made me in His image and that the serpent who has whispered the lie of ugliness to me my entire life is wrong.
No longer shall I believe the original lie.
Whatever your lie is?
No longer should you believe it either.