It took many years for me to realize that I (Jerry) operated out of my unmet needs, which shaped many of my actions. I was what many would consider a “nice guy.” But in reality, my heart wasn’t so nice. Because of some core love deficits that only became known to me in my middle thirties, much of my love for others was driven by my own needs for acceptance. I put on my “people-pleaser/peacekeeper mask,” and I did whatever was necessary to avoid relational conflicts. I operated out of what is called a shame-based identity, which was built on a core of lies, mainly concerning myself. Unhealthy, toxic shame, which is established very early in childhood, says that there is something inherently wrong, flawed, or defective in me, and if you really knew me, you would not like me. As a result of believing this, I either grow up seeking to prove that I am okay (and not allowing anyone to see that I am not), or else I grow up with a defeatist attitude and give up on trying to prove that I’m okay. I chose the former, performance-based route. Although I enjoyed success, I operated unknowingly from an unhealthy place, and my driving needs remained unmet.
At my core, I did not know I was okay—in fact, I believed quite the opposite—and, as a result, I did not love myself and was unable to genuinely love others. I often would do loving things, but my actions had the wrong motivation.
You can imagine how this dysfunction manifested in my marriage with Denise. For many years, she wanted more of my heart, but I was unable to offer it to her. I couldn’t be emotionally intimate with her because I didn’t even know my own heart. It was occupied by too much false self, and intimacy requires truth in the innermost parts. Only after entrusting my heart to Christ and allowing him to find the real Jerry could the healing work begin.
I feel grateful that I am no longer the “nice guy” (aka “the poser”) I used to be. Today I operate much more from my true, God-created self. Dealing with my shame and its underlying lies was huge. As I began to let God pour his love into places within me that desperately needed it, I also had to learn to love myself—especially my younger self—for the healing to be most effective.
Through my healing, I discovered that when we hide the unhealed places within us, we severely hinder our ability to feel and experience the heart of Father God. Since he created us for intimate relationship with himself, he will pursue us and do whatever is necessary to restore that intimacy. By not loving ourselves, we disagree with how he sees us and feels about us. We end up actually opposing him—unintentionally, of course; nevertheless, when our self-assessment becomes more important to us than the Father’s assessment of us, then our actions become self-centered rather than God-centered.
There is a road out of this unhealthy place, but first we must look at ourselves honestly and ask, “What mask do I wear?” Invite the Father into this place and allow him to reveal and heal your true identity as a precious child of God. And because the Father feels unchangeable, unshakeable love for you, you might as well agree with him and love what he loves, because the Father is always right.
NOTE: If you or someone you know is in need of finding a safe place for emotional and/or spiritual healing and restoration, please contact us at The Father’s Heart Intensive Christian Counseling Ministry through our web site at www.fathersheart.com or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are located in the North Georgia Mountains in a retreat-oriented environment and have established opportunities for ministry to individuals or couples for time periods as little as a few hours to as long as five days.