Listen to Andrew Peterson sing this to his daughter, then come back and let’s talk about his advice.
I’m skeptical of any advice that seems to present God’s Word as a self-help book, full of anecdotes that appeal to man becoming his own soul-physician. But Peterson’s lyrics helped me to see something that I’ve always struggled to find perspective: how to encourage someone out of the self-condemning and self-loathing words that a teenager is using against herself. Simply, I would never have thought to say, “be kind to yourself.” This gentle father at the piano is not helping his daughter by appealing to her self worth, but his promise to love her no matter what. His counsel is this: Be kind to yourself by reminding yourself of my love for you. Put away your self-hatred and injurious words that you tell yourself and believe that I love you.
It’s a given, says Jesus, that we already have a certain kind of healthy self-regard. “. . . love your neighbor as yourself.” To consider the need of another and meet that need is premised on one’s own consideration of your person. Our ability to love others is dependent upon how we regard ourselves. If poorly, then my ability to love someone is nearly impossible – for I’m locked up in my own world of self-pity and self-hatred, unable to free myself from an unrealistic pedestal of ME; I have let ME down. But if I know myself as someone who is deeply loved by my father and mother, for example, then my ability to move toward the need of another is facilitated by my own healthy regard for myself.
Peterson is therefore giving sound advice. Stop being mean and hateful to yourself by spending more time reminding yourself of the great promises of the Lord> “there is therefore now no condemnation – no matter what I’ve done to disappoint others” > “I am crucified with Christ . . . and the life that I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” > “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion unto the day of Jesus Christ – and that means all the heart-breaking things that tempt me to despair of myself, Jesus has not given up on his plan to reshape me into his image.” That’s what Peterson is advising: Use the truths of scripture to defeat this war that is against you against you against you.
This is not secular self-help motivation. This is the way any parent would want their child to put an end to self-condemnation language. “Remind yourself how much I love you when you feel so horrible about yourself. The hurtful things that you’re telling yourself are unkind words – no one should hear those words, especially you.”
Parents, Satan wants your child to hate herself. Satan wants your child to turn on herself as if she is the enemy. But as Peterson reminds us, you have to learn to love your enemies too! Parents, see to it that your child knows that you love her no matter what. And parents, while you’re at it, you also be kind to yourself when you feel horrible about your own failures as a parent and feel like you can’t face your children. If you are in Christ, then you have a Father in heaven who loves you like his own son. Tomorrow is another day of grace and mercy. Get up . . . look up . . . and with the love of Christ, go love your child.