Three years ago (amazing! Have I really been blogging for that long?) I shared a story about a woman who approached me at a bus station and gave me a fresh warm bagel when I was sad, tired and a bit desperate. You can read the story here.
The memory is still vivid in my mind. In those few short minutes, I felt as though someone bestowed the precious gift of friendship upon me – something to keep me going at the darkest moments. It's amazing how such little things can have such a tremendous impact on our soul. Especially the words she said have resounded in my ears during many times of fear, despair and humiliation:
"You look like such a wonderful person. Don't let anyone put you down."
I know her words were a message from God, because He ever and always wishes to strengthen, encourage and uplift us. I'm not saying the messages we get are always meant to make us feel good. But they always carry a positive, not a negative force. They are always made of hope, possibility, insistence, improvement. They might painfully shake us, but they remind us He never gives up on us.
Thus, it's easy enough to recognize the messages that are not from Him, usually spoken by people who surround us. If anyone in your life, anyone at all, deliberately makes you feel, and/or explicitly tells you that you are worthless; wicked; stupid; hopeless; crazy – that you are a terrible person, that you will never be able to make a difference, that you will never get up, shake off the dust and walk on – know that their message is not from God, and therefore not true, because He never wants us to drown in despair. He wants us to know there is always hope.
Speaking in Jewish terms, those negative messages are from yetzer ha-ra, the evil inclination. A rabbi I highly admire wrote in one of his books that the evil inclination first and foremost wants us to believe we are incapable of doing good, because then we will become prone to do evil.
We are all wonderful. Not perfect, certainly, but wondrously made in His image. We must treasure ourselves, not out of arrogance, but because we know He treasures us. Isn't that a precious gift?