I’m reading a fantastic book right now called Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning. If you haven’t read it, I recommend that you stop what you’re doing IMMEDIATELY and go pick it up. It truly is one of the most insightful and convicting books that I’ve read in a while.
Abba’s Child starts with a long look at the sin of “self-rejection.” As I’ve read, it’s become clear to me that self-rejection is something that I’m quite familiar with; however, I’m not sure that I’ve ever acknowledged it explicitly as sin. Manning describes self-rejection, through the words of Henri Nouwen, as:
“When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable… Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us ‘beloved’.”
Self-rejection, simply, is refusing to believe that God has made much of us through Christ. It’s self-criticism, self-defeat, and can even be self-hatred. Manning goes on to describe self-rejection as an environment that many of us live in. We simply take it as one of our natural surroundings, just like sunlight or grass. To live in a state of self-rejection feels familiar and normal… it’s all that we’ve grown to know.
This all resonates with me very much. I am admittedly a self-rejector… I can only assume that it often goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism. So I got to thinking about why this self-rejection is so rampant and so powerful in many of our lives. Why is it so difficult for us to accept ourselves? Love ourselves? See ourselves as worthy?
I started thinking about the messaging that we hear that counteracts God’s voice that calls us "Beloved." The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the message of self-rejection is everywhere. We (especially women) are raised on a diet of self-loathing.
If you think that that sounds extreme or melodramatic, I ask you to come up with an example of contemporary rhetoric that builds women up without putting other women down. Seriously. Can you think of one?
Our beliefs are almost always informed by four major social institutions: family, church, education, and media. To choose just one, we all know that the media is not kind to women. I don’t need to write a dissertation here in order to convince anyone of that. The media distorts its representation of womanhood in myriad ways, not limited to underrepresentation, misrepresentation, stereotyping, archetyping, photoshopping, objectification, etc. This is no surprise. We’re either too much of this or not enough of that… we can’t win. Can you even imagine hearing newscasters talk about men the way they talk about women? Can you remotely picture how ridiculous it would be if young men were portrayed in film the same way that young women are treated?
Clearly, media is not solely to blame for all of the world’s problems. However, it intrigues me that we don’t acknowledge its influence more than we do, especially in Christian circles. We realize the danger of letting our kids watch violence or exposing teens to sex-ridden MTV programming, sure. But do we ever take a moment to internalize what mainstream media is telling us, even as adults? Media, of all other institutions, is primarily responsible for constructing what we take as reality. Think about that. At the end of the day, oftentimes without our realizing it, the media define what we believe, what we value, and more importantly, what we take as normal, natural, and right. I spent one of my college degrees studying this, and what absolutely fascinates me is not this phenomenon alone… but how insidious it is. How quick we are to claim immunity and how little we’re actually aware of our participation in it.
Lest you think that you really are immune, I ask you to consider this: why do most Christians tend to think homosexuality is a major sin and remarriage is a minor one (if one at all)? That’s not what the Bible says. It’s what media says.
So here’s the thing… as I continue to think about self-rejection and our subsequent inability to receive Christ’s love, I encourage you to think about who you’re listening to. I encourage you to think critically about the “norms” that the media feeds us about who we are and what we’re worth as women. At the risk of sounding like a charismatic revivalist preacher… I encourage you to recognize that media may be one of Satan’s primary tools against us women. Without wanting to and without realizing it, we eat up lies about ourselves daily. Who else would be feeding these to us?
You know, I don’t really know the answer here. Studies have shown that even people who aren’t TV watchers, internet users, or travelers (can’t forget the impact of billboards) are every bit as susceptible to these beliefs as those who consider themselves regular media consumers. It goes to show that the things media tell us are woven into the fabric of our society…they make up our reality. I suppose the only way to take away its power is to recognize it. Once something is recognized and named, it’s so much easier to fight, right?
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is the light that makes everything visible… Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise.” –Ephesians 5:13-15