I kept my feelings and my past hidden, and I tried to keep up a perfect image of myself. I was afraid that others would reject me if they got to know the real me.
Editor’s Note: Names have been changed for anonymity
My father was distant for most of my growing up years.
Even though my parents were married and living in the same house, my dad rarely spoke to anyone. During birthday celebrations and events like graduation, he would choose to stay in his room alone.
I tried to please him, only to be pushed away.
I tried to do well in my studies to make him proud, but whenever he opened his mouth, he only made hurtful comments like “Can you use your brain?”. Over the years, I started to become bitter towards him.
I started to seek the love and validation that I lacked at home from others.
I craved the compliments and attention from my friends, especially those of the opposite gender. I would text a number of guys till late at night. When I was in secondary school, I got into a few relationships.
But these relationships couldn’t satisfy me.
I was often reminded that there was always someone better, prettier and more popular than I was. At that time, I thought that if someone who was desirable loved me, I would finally feel like I was worth something. Soon, the attention of one guy wasn’t enough for me. I kept wanting attention from other guys who were more popular. I was caught in an endless cycle of trying to gain the validation of the next guy. But as a result, I hurt many people.
I was a slave to my desire for approval.
I knew that I was being a jerk - I was manipulating other people just to feel better about myself. I felt disgusted with my own behaviour but I did not know how to stop.
Receiving Christ eight years later changed my life.
It was the first time I heard about unconditional love! I was amazed that I had a Heavenly Father who did not count my sins and flaws against me. When I gave my life to Him, I experienced a kind of love that I'd never felt before. From then on, I stopped jumping from one relationship to the next.
My behaviour changed, but my heart was still in need of healing.
I still thought of myself as not good enough. I also found it hard to open up to the people in my life group. I kept my feelings and my past hidden. I tried to keep up a perfect image of myself. I was afraid that others would reject me if they got to know the real me.
The hole in my heart was never filled, so I was constantly fuelled by a need to prove myself in other ways. I often compared myself with others. If I didn’t do better, I felt inferior and worthless.
I didn’t realize it then, but my relationship with my father shaped the way I interacted with other people. I felt like no matter how well I did, people will always disapprove of me. And if my own father doesn't even love me, why would other people love me?
My perspective only changed after the 'Heart Renovation' series last year.
I learned that we are not responsible for someone’s treatment towards us, but we are responsible for our response. I realized that because God had forgiven me, I was responsible for forgiving others who had hurt me as well!
During the altar call that week, God brought to remembrance all the times that I was hurt by my parents and my ex-boyfriends. For the first time in life, I told God about all the pain that I felt. I encountered the presence of God, and I knew that He understood my pain. I realized that I had been trapped in a victim mentality, believing that I was never good enough and that people would never love me. But as God spoke to me that day, I understood that God Himself wants to meet my deepest need for love, so that I don’t need to keep finding it in other people.
God told me to let go of the unforgiveness and let Him handle it instead.
So one by one, I canceled all the debts that parents and my ex-boyfriends owed me. Immediately, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. When I chose to forgive them, God opened my eyes to see that they were also hurt, and in need of Him. He exchanged my bitterness for His compassion instead.
But forgiveness isn’t just a one-time encounter.
As I started being vulnerable with my life group about my struggles, they showed me so much love and acceptance. Through them, I experienced how much God loves me, just for being me. Life really isn’t about striving to be at the top and being the most popular. The approval of men will never satisfy! I had forgiven him and how much I long to see a change in our family. My dad never really acknowledged the letter. But over the next few weeks, he started being kinder with his words, and he was less critical and demeaning. Forgiving my dad not only set me free from bitterness, it also changed my dad! I am so glad I obeyed God because His way is really the best way!
The way I viewed relationships have drastically changed since then.
As I started being vulnerable with my life group about my struggles, they showed me so much love and acceptance. Through them, I experienced how much God loves me, just for being me. Life really isn’t about striving to be at the top and being the most popular. The approval of men will never satisfy!
God’s approval isn’t like men’s approval.
God’s love for me has been secured for me on the cross. It will never change. Because I understand that now, I don’t have to prove my worth anymore. I am set free to consider others better than myself, and look to their interests instead of my own!
In hindsight, my relationships in the past didn’t work because I used them as a replacement for God’s love. We simply cannot use relationships with people to fix what’s wrong with our hearts. Healthy relationships stem from healthy individuals who are whole and secure in Christ!
Right now, I am still learning how to be His child every day. With each step I take on this journey, He never fails to show me His goodness and faithfulness. To end off, I just want to encourage you to always trust completely in God’s love for you, because it will never be shaken!