Silencing the Inner Critic

You did it again. You messed up. You’re doomed to failure, why even try? These words of condemnation ring often in the heads of those on the recovery journey. Recovery from an eating disorder, addiction, trauma or other life-altering behavior is imperfect, fraught with difficulty and pitfalls. No one wakes up one morning “cured.” There’s no quick fix, and the road to healing and sanctification is often long, hard work, and requires deep spiritual transformation.

One of the most enduring challenges when fighting the battle toward wholeness is silencing the inner critic: the condemning voice that threatens to undo all our progress as we continue our march. It holds an unattainable standard of perfection in recovery over our heads, so that when we do make a misstep or give in to weakness, we see ourselves as utter failures, rather than beloved children of an understanding Father who holds our hand each step of the way.

Accepting God’s grace, even when we fail, ignites within us

a power and strength to keep going when times get tough. Over time, it silences the condemnation, of which there is none in Jesus Christ, and allows us to persevere until His work is complete in us.

What Grace is:
Grace is unmerited favor. Take a moment to realize just how rarely this concept manifests itself in our world today. Everything is to be earned, we’re always performing, always "on," and one's behavior, talents or failures are seen as the reason for everything good or bad that happens. Favor is rarely bestowed upon the average person, much less to the sick, vulnerable and marginalized, or those who have committed serious wrongs against others or society. These people are seen as “less than” or “guilty.” But brothers and sisters, we are all unworthy and guilty before God, AND YET – he saves us. He bestows on us His grace. Not because we are righteous, or because we are good people. Not because we’ve earned it or impressed anyone. Just because we are made in His image and He is good and merciful. I had a hard time accepting this, because we so badly want to work for and achieve grace and salvation in our own right because of our pride and ego. But how profoundly blessed are we that grace and mercy are a free gift, and infinite worth and value is bestowed upon us despite all our weakness and flaws.

Forgiving Others:
When we have been the recipients of such grace, we must forgive others. This is one of the most difficult aspects of life generally, and the recovery process specifically. God’s grace means He forgives us – and if the Creator of the Universe, who is omnipotent and omnipresent and all powerful can forgive us, how can we not forgive our fellow man? While the answer to this seems obvious, it is often easier said than done. But unforgiveness and the lack of demonstrated grace toward others builds up a block in our own hearts to accepting the grace and forgiveness of God. When we build walls around our hearts toward others, there is an equal and proportional effect toward ourselves. Forgiving others does not excuse their behavior, it does not demand change, it does not even require that a person seek your forgiveness. Forgiving others is not about them, but about softening our own hearts, and responding in love the way the Father has responded to us.

Accepting Grace:
I maintain that accepting grace is one of the most challenging things about recovery. When we fail, slip up, or relapse, the condemning voice can come back swiftly and derail us completely. However, accepting God’s grace means that, in the moment when tempted by the inner critic, we choose God’s love instead. It means sometimes dropping to our knees and crying out to God to give us faith to see ourselves the way He sees us – treasured, cherished, beloved, through no effort of our own. Failing to accept grace basically means believing there’s something you can yet do to earn God’s love. There is nothing you can do to earn it, which means there is nothing you can do to lose it.

Christian men and women in recovery need to lean often on the generous mercy of God, especially in the darkest moments of the recovery journey. It is there that the depth, width, breadth, and rich expanse of God’s love is most deeply felt. It requires humility, and delivers the most incredible strength. No one is perfect in recovery and sometimes it seems like an impossible task – but nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible with God.

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by Kirsten Haglund, Community Relations Specialist for Timberline Knolls,

a private residential treatment center for women struggling with
eating disorders, addictions, mood disorders, trauma, and PTSD.
She was also Miss America in 2008.

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