It has often been said that we see ourselves differently than how other people see us. This only makes sense because few people have journeyed all the way through our life with us. They do not know everything we have experienced or understand why we react to things they way we react. They have no idea the people we have known in the past who have shaped our way of thinking and who have impacted our perspective. Often people project their own experiences on us and expect we will have the same reactions or perspective. It takes maturity to understand perspective through another person's eyes.
I have always understood this from a negative perspective, as in, people not understanding and disagreeing with my decisions. I have not ever considered this from the perspective of people seeing better things in me than I see in myself. Although it is true that they do not know everything that has made us us, they are also unaware of all the baggage we carry with us. Often we carry negative experiences and terrible opinions of ourselves from years ago that no longer apply today. If we ran into a friend from 20 years ago they still only know us from 20 years ago. There is a lot of living and changes that take place in twenty years. That friend from twenty years ago does not know the same person that our current friends from today know. All the things we have lived and experienced have changed and molded us. However, we ourselves don't even realize this and fail to see ourselves as our friends see us today.
I saw this in a conversation I had with a lovely lady the other day. She wanted to ask me some simple questions about parenting because she felt that she was not being a very good mother to her three children. As she gave me some examples of her parenting I became more and more impressed with this young mom. She described situations that she handled with the wisdom that could only come from the Holy Spirit. The longer I listened to her the more I became convicted about my own parenting skills, and people say I am a good dad. For some reason this lady had a negative image of herself as a mother. Something from her past was still clinging to her and would not allow her to see what everyone else could see; she was a super mom.
Even in my own case I am plagued by all my past failures, all the negative experiences, all the ugly things of my life. I look at my day and I see all the things I did not complete instead of what I did manage to get done. I have a high expectation of what I consider success and it is unrealistic. I see myself as a failure which is a lie from my past. I fail to see what my friends see. I am a single dad to four children and a distant parent for five others. I am the principal of a small school and must sacrifice constantly. I am a teacher in that school and must dedicate a lot of time to that task. I am the pastor of a church in a part of the world that is lost in the darkness of "self" and sin. I need to give myself a break here and see myself as my friends see me. Better yet, we need to see ourselves as our Father sees us.
There really is only one person who can save us from the trap of our past. Satan will always be there to try to keep us in that trap. He will always be there to accuse us and try to convince us that we are the same as yesterday. Yet, for the one who has been with us since our conception in our mother's womb, our forgiven past failures never even existed. A psalmist wrote:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:8-14)
God knows us better than we know ourselves and he understands our situation better than we understand. Yet, he looks on us with such love, compassion and dedication that all it takes is one simple gesture on our part and all his extravagant love comes flooding over us. We are not failures in his eyes; we are his children. Give yourself a break today and allow your past sins to be forgiven and removed from you as if they have never existed. Understand that God has used your past failures for your good and has used them to make something beautiful in you. Give yourself a break and understand that you are a different person from your past; those weaknesses are gone, new strength is yours, you are better than ever, and in the strength of the Lord you can do and be everything he has promised. No one knows you like he knows you and yet he loves you. That is definitely something worth keeping in mind as you face your day.