Whether it’s a Judeo-Christian form of the Divine or some other perception of “God,” many of us struggle with feeling that we don’t live up to Divine expectations of us. It’s time to change that perception.
I have seen it in myself and many others – the internalized, judgmental God. It’s the inner critic we are so accustomed to battling, but formed into a deity we may have grown up with. It feels all-powerful and punishing; but we can transform it into the unconditionally loving presence that the Divine truly is.
When I was little, my parents took me to Sunday school at our church – a Presbytarian, traditional, conservative community in Southern California. There, I learned two ideas about God: the form of Jesus, that “loved me”; and then this other, less clear idea of the Divine that was judging me for my “sins”. Apparently, I was doing something bad and although I was loved anyway, it didn’t make me feel much better.
I was fixated on that “badness”. Unconsciously, I went on an internal investigation to root out those parts of myself that God probably wasn’t pleased with. I became a perfectionist (although, honestly, I was probably born that way), seeing everything through the lens of what’s wrong and how I can fix it. Especially myself.
It’s hard to live feeling like you’re always being judged, isn’t it? I didn’t understand at such a young age, when these ideas were impressed upon me, that the only one judging me was actually me.
The Internalized Judgmental God
I had internalized the sense of a God that criticizes, judges, and punishes our shortcomings. It became part of my own psyche, and repeatedly wounded me.
I cast a punishing, scathing old man or woman in the judge’s chair, always finding fault. There was the allure of salvation in discovering the fault myself and then trying to make amends or fix that imperfection. But of course, there’s always something else. I could never attain “good enough” status.
The habit of trying to eradicate what I deemed was sub-par in myself is a violent tendency. “Getting rid of” and “fixing” cause us to torment, reject, and destroy parts of ourselves. What we do to ourselves psychically in the name of pleasing a critical “God” is self-harm. Cutting ourselves up into pieces we like, and pieces we don’t like; trying to discard the latter.
In fact, I had such a compulsion to get rid of imperfections that I developed a mild skin picking disorder – one I still struggle with to this day. Self-injury through mental chastization of this imaginary, judgemental “God” can lead to physical self-harm.
Changing How I saw God – and Myself
My life changed when I recognized this “God” was something that I put in the judge’s chair, and I began seeking what the Divine truly is.
The truth that I have come to know, that changed this whole dynamic for me, is that the Divine is beyond judgment. It is the source of unconditional love, and the source of everything. All of creation has emerged from it, and is an outward expression of this Infinite Source.
The Divine, which is Unconditional Love, sees with Unconditional Love. It sees us as beloved facets of its very own Self. It sees us with eyes of love and acceptance. If we could see ourselves and our lives with those eyes, we would know our blessings, gifts, and beauty. By seeing with Spirit’s eyes, we would know we are wonderful, unique expressions of that creative, loving force.
A Different Way of Growing
But what about spiritual growth, I pondered? Aren’t I supposed to improve and continue to become “better”? Am I not here to grow and unfold as a spiritual being in a human experience? Indeed, all of us are. But there is a different way of growing than finding flaws and trying to rid ourselves of them.
“Trying harder” was transformed into self-acceptance and allowing new qualities to emerge from within me. “Being perfect” needed to give way to embracing my imperfections with compassion, seeing in them opportunities to open my heart more. “Fixing flaws” brought to awareness how I would focus on my problems. Instead, I turned my attention to my gifts, even those hidden in the “flaws”, and what the wounded places in myself were calling for.
The Good Enough/Not Good Enough Polarity
Every day, I stepped out of the good enough/not good enough polarity. “Not good enough” is hard to rewire in the habits of my brain. I was so used to seeing myself in that light.
But swinging to “good enough” wasn’t really the answer, either. By whose standard? What does that really mean? Either end of the polarity implies comparison, judgment, and something outside of myself holding the measuring stick.
We can transcend good enough/not good enough, to step outside of comparison and see ourselves from the perspective of Wholeness. I’d rather be whole and healed than chopped up into pieces I like and pieces I don’t like. I’d rather be whole than to feel good enough in one moment, and then, like a pendulum, be swung back into not good enough the next.
Wholeness sees all of the Self as essential and part of who we are. Every aspect of ourselves has value and is needed. We need both day and night, summer and winter. Wholeness is a principle of healing and of life. Lesley Tierra, L.Ac., author of Healing with the Herbs of Life, states:
“Herbs are a complex, synergistic whole in which each of its chemical parts contributes to, or buffers, the other parts. In separating out and concentrating one active principle from the rest, this important balance is lost.”
So, too, are we humans complex. Were we to remove parts of ourselves that we didn’t like or see value in, we’d lose our balance. We’d destroy aspects that may have had hidden gems in them, beyond our clouded, judgmental perception.
Self-Compassion and Feeding the Demons
Our anger, fear, anxiety, insecurities, even our judgment itself, can offer something to us. It’s essential, as we heal this judgmental “God” within, not to judge the judge. As we embrace our inner judge with compassion, it has the opportunity to soften and transform into our ally.
This is the practice of self-compassion, where we learn to embrace the pain and uncomfortable parts of ourselves with presence, caring, and understanding. It is similar to the Buddhist practice of “feeding the demons.”
These parts of ourselves that are less-than-desirable are places within us that need care and attention, not criticism and rejection. In fact, they likely became such undesirable traits and feelings because of someone else criticizing and rejecting them. We added that to our construction of this judgmental “God” inside of us.
Heal with Compassion
Take some time to connect with the places in you that you criticize and judge. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Allow yourself to relax by taking mindful breaths. Every exhalation helps you to release and soften; every inhalation brings you into the present moment.
Notice what you feel in your body. When you think of what that “God” is judging, note the sensations in the body. Discern where you’re harboring that inner, rejected part of yourself in a palpable way. Feel the sensations.
Then, visualize what you’re judging. What does he, she, or it look like? Sit down with her. Let her know you see her and are there for her. Hold her hand, stroke her hair, hug her, or just sit patiently with her. Ask her how she feels and what she needs. Most of the time, the parts of ourselves that we want to get rid of are wounded parts of our inner child. Children need love and compassion in order to heal, and so do you.
As this part of you heals and is invited into your Wholeness, you’ll be able to see it as a precious part of you. It transforms, as the Buddhists say, into an ally. It becomes a bearer of sacred qualities for you. Give it time. You may have to connect with it many times, or be very patient, for it to transform. But it can, and if you persist, it will.
Allow Yourself to Be Seen by Unconditional Love
Through recognizing that we’ve internalized a judgmental idea of God, identifying our own inner critic, discovering the shamed and rejected parts of ourselves, and healing them into wholeness, we can turn to the Divine with a new perspective.
It can then feel safe enough to allow ourselves to be seen by this unconditionally loving presence. To be seen by God, the Divine, The Creator, Great Spirit – however you label it. We can open to the idea of being cherished, as the one and only unique expression of that Divine spark. It feels good to be truly seen, understood, accepted, and loved. Allow it.
And then see yourself as the Divine truly sees you.
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