Just a Thought

The Stalker Within – By JANNAYA ANDREWS

    With Christmas and New Year’s now in the books, thoughts often turn to ways we may better ourselves, perhaps even make a genuine contribution to help others ... a way, oftentimes, to chase away that pesky feeling of unworthiness, usually created and maintained solely within the confines of our own mind.
    Our inner stalker, if you will.
    We all have a stalker within us. She chases us throughout our lifetime, hiding in the shadows of our hearts, waiting for the right moment to strike out and bring our past sins to the forefront of our heart, and our mind.
    Those past discretions, those sins that bring upon us feelings of guilt, shame and regret, can sometimes haunt us even years later. When at last we can take no more and chance baring our soul to a select few, the prevailing words of wisdom we hear are “You have to forgive yourself.” Of course! The answer seems so obvious and, even though we’ve heard — or maybe even said — these words countless times before, there comes a time when these words hit home and we take them in for their full, comforting value. The only problem is, they’re not true.
    For years I felt I needed to forgive myself for the sins of my past. Forgive myself for the hurt, the deceit, the overall rotten things I’ve done in my lifetime that were a direct result of ... well, stupidity in most cases. Selfishness raises its ugly head as well in most situations where we didn’t make the right choice, usually resulting in harming ourselves or someone we love in one way or another. It isn’t that we don’t care. It isn’t that we’re bad people. It is one constant, unchanging factor that makes us do things that aren’t always in our best interest. We are human.
    Admittedly some transgressions are more difficult for us to let go of than others, but even the smallest of hurts can come back to surprise us years later. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, a reminder of the pain we caused ourselves or others can act as a great deterrent to repeating the behavior. It’s when those memories become the evil force prevailing our thoughts and daily lives, preparing to pounce at the slightest provocation, that we need to examine the reason for allowing our stalker within to continue on her destructive way. “You need to forgive yourself.”
    For years I thought this simple statement was true and I just wasn’t able to act on the advice. I knew those I had hurt with my sins had, thankfully, forgiven me; and I knew God had forgiven me. But I hadn’t forgiven myself. So off I went, trekking aimlessly for years in the recesses of my mind searching for the key that would lock my inner stalker away for good. Years of searching for a way to forgive myself took its toll. Constantly searching for something that isn’t there can be downright exhausting. It wasn’t until recently that I realized it wasn’t that I needed to forgive myself, it’s that I hadn’t accepted God’s forgiveness. As a Christian, this is one of the most powerful displays of love we receive from Him ... and perhaps the most difficult to accept.
    God’s forgiveness is absolute. There isn’t a magic formula we need to follow. God doesn’t say He has forgiven us 90 percent, leaving the remaining 10 percent for us to claim. That type of thinking is self-destructive at best. God forgives completely. That’s a difficult concept for even the most devout Christian to understand. All the hurt, the shame and regret is gone not by my own doing, but because God gave His perfect Son for me.
  For nonbelievers, maybe self-forgiveness is the key. Certainly acceptance is. Acceptance that we are human, we are flawed, and we will fail time and again. Regardless of our spiritual beliefs, color, sexual preference or lifestyle choices, we are the same. We will hurt ourselves and one another. It is inevitable. However this doesn’t mean we’re incapable of change, that we’re incapable of being kind to ourselves and one another. Acceptance.
    The delusion we can erase our past transgressions feeds our inner stalker, and she’ll grow unbidden until we are consumed with sorrow and guilt. Acceptance of the difference between what is true and what we tell ourselves in our need for comfort may slay our inner stalker. Perhaps not today, or even tomorrow. But the more we accept, the smaller she becomes.
    My stalker is still there, lurking in the shadows awaiting her chance. She comes when my will is weak and my defenses are up. I would like to say when my stalker within appears I cast her aside without a backward glance, but that would be a lie. However, I don’t embrace her as I once did. We wrestle and claw at one another and, on more occasions than not anymore, I’m able to wrangle her back into her cage. But she’s a slippery one, and she’ll be back.

    The writer is the associate editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat.