Tag Archives: Henri Nouwen

What Silence Reveals About Your Self-Worth

Self-worth and silence

Self-worth and Silence

How would you rank your self-worth? Try this.  Be quiet for ten minutes. That’s it. Just ten minutes.

How’s that working for you? No, I mean totally quiet. No thinking either. No brain chatter. No “to-do” lists being created. Not even prayer.

Ten minutes. Total silence.

Set a timer because after about three minutes you’ll want to check the time.  After five minutes you’ll want to check your phone.

What is it about silence that is sooooo uncomfortable?  It’s just so unproductive.

Self-worth and Silence

Silence is powerful because it reveals your self-worth. The longer you can sit in silence the healthier you are.  The more secure you are.  But discomfort means you NEED activity in your life to feel adequate. You NEED someone texting you or emailing you to make you feel wanted. You NEED to create that “to-do” list because it’s only in doing something that you have value.  You NEED to pray or think great thoughts to justify your existence. Come on, admit it. It’s okay. Reality is your friend!

You might say…well, I have ADHD. That’s true for some of us. But a LOT more people call themselves ADHD than really are. The real issue is they are approval junkies looking for their next fix and they typically find it in doing something that will win approval from others.

Henri Nouwen says…

A life without a lonely place, that is, a life without a quiet center, easily becomes destructive…In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us…It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts…In solitude we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness. Show Me the Way, page 67,68

Work on being quiet for a few minutes each day. If you must think something then keep telling yourself…God accepts me just the way I am.  Let that be your mantra. The world around you wants to make you dance to their tune and jump through their hoops to earn their acceptance. That’s why Nouwen says that a life without a quiet center is destructive. But not so with God. Silence is a discipline that will help you break the hold that performance based acceptance has on you.

Question: What is it about silence that makes you uncomfortable? Leave you comment below.


Low Self-Worth Turns Friends into Enemies


Low Self-Worth Makes Enemies of Friends

In his book, Show Me the Way, Henri Nouwen challenges our source of self-worth. He says…

When we cling to the results of our actions as our own way of self-identification, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than as friends with whom we share the gifts of life. page 67, Show Me the Way

What Defines Your Self-Worth?

Let me unpack this a bit.  Think about whatever it is that you do that gives you a sense of worth; your athletic ability, your work performance, your looks, your children, your Bible knowledge, your grades, etc. If you are honest this behavior easily becomes your identity. It becomes your scorecard that you show people to prove your worth and justifies your existence.

Take a second. Don’t be so quick to say “not me”. Go ahead. Admit it. That’s human nature.

The question really isn’t IF you think this way. It’s, What can I do about the way I think? How can I shift my thinking away from this faulty validation system?

The problem with this kind of scorecard system is that you have to defend it. That’s what the Nouwen quote is about. You have to prove to others the importance of your specialty and why you must spend time on it. You need to protect not only the specialty but your record. It’s work! It’s easy to see everyone as a threat. Every person in your life can potentially deny the value of what you depend on for self-worth. You can’t let that happen!

Low Self-Worth Creates Enemies

That’s why Nouwen says that people become our enemies and not our friends. Our talents are not gifts to share with friends. They are merely badges to prove our self-worth.  This behavior doesn’t draw us close to people but distances us more and more into a place of isolation.

Has that happened to you? Maybe that’s why you are lonely…you spend too much time proving your worth, to others, and even yourself.

Find Your Self-Worth in God Alone

What if you reject this validation system and find validation from God’s love?  Suddenly people are no longer your enemy. You don’t need their approval. You’ve already got your approval from God. Instead of needing something from your friends you’ve got something to give them. Something to consider.

Question: How has low self-worth caused you to distance yourself from friends? Leave your comments below and be sure to “share the knowledge” by clicking the links. Thanks.

Receive the free e-book “Forgiven…once and for all” when you subscribe to this blog.


What Scoreboard Measures Your Self-Worth?


What Scoreboard Measures Your Self-worth?

What measures your self-worth? Our culture fixates on finding self-worth in places that ultimately don’t satisfy.  Too many people crash and burn because they invest in things they thought would make them happy but didn’t.

I’m here to point to a different source of happiness and success. When you tap into the life and love of God you find a strength that doesn’t come and go on a whim.

Henri Nouwen on Self-Worth

In “Show Me the Way”, Henri Nouwen addresses self-worth saying…

When we start being too impressed by the results of our work, we slowly come to the erroneous conviction that life is one large scoreboard where someone is listing the points to measure our worth. And before we are fully aware of it, we have sold our soul to the many grade-givers…

  • We are intelligent because someone gives us a high-grade.
  • We are helpful because someone says thanks.
  • We are likable because someone likes us.
  • And we are important because someone considers us indispensable.

In short, we are worthwhile because we have successes. page 67

If my self-worth depends on my success then I’m in trouble. It’s a double-edged sword. If I have no success then I have no self-worth. If self-worth is what I need then I am driven to succeed no matter what the cost. How many people fall into one of these two camps? I’m afraid it’s astronomical and the weight is crushing.

At some point we have to wise up and stop playing the game. We have to realize that self-worth is not a game won by scoring points. Self-worth is a gift given by a loving God.

I’d like to give you permission to walk off the field right now. Shut off the scoreboard and take the trophy. It’s yours without ever playing the game!

Question: What scoreboard are you using to measure your worth? What has to happen before you can feel good about your life?  Leave your comment below and “share the knowledge”. Thanks.

Get the free e-book, “Forgiven…once and for all” when you subscribe to this blog.


Could Poverty Help us Forgive?

Forgive ...how poverty helps us

Henri Nouwen

Can Poverty help us forgive? In Henri Nouwen‘s devotional, “Show Me the Way” he talks about how the key to hospitality is a sense of poverty. When you have nothing, you can give everything.  It sounds paradoxical and foolish. But let me explain and then expand it into the realm of forgiveness as well. Nouwen says this…

Once we have become poor, we can be a good host. It is indeed the paradox of hospitality that poverty makes a good host. Poverty in the inner disposition that allows us to take away our defenses and convert our enemies into friends. We can perceive the stranger as an enemy only as long as we have something to defend. But when we say, “Please enter — my house is your house, my joy is your joy, my sadness is your sadness, and my life is your life,” we have nothing to defend, since we have nothing to lose but all to give.

Turning the other cheek means showing our enemies that they can be our enemies only while supposing that we are anxiously clinging to our private property, whatever it is: our knowledge, our good name, our land, our money, or the many objects we have collected around us. But who will be our robbers when everything they want to steal from us becomes our gift to them? Who can lie to us when only the truth will serve them well? Who wants to sneak into our back door when our front door is wide open?  Show Me the Way

Poverty Helps Us Forgive

If I have nothing to defend or protect, nothing to lock up or hide away, nothing I fear you will take,  then all I have is yours. I’m free to be fully present with you. This is true about hospitality. But let me take it farther. Isn’t this true in forgiveness too? I think that’s where Nouwen is going when he talks about “turning the other cheek”. He believer a sense of poverty enables us to forgive.

If you have offended me I can only cling to unforgiveness as long as I cling to my reputation, my name, my image.  You took something from me…that’s why I’m so mad.  But if I don’t have an image or a reputation to defend…then I can forgive you without a problem.

(I’m not talking about having no self-esteem. I’m talking about being in a place where you are so convinced of your worth – it is God-given – that you don’t have to cling to it. You have no fear of losing it or letting someone strip it from you because you know you can’t lose it.)

Our problem is that we so often have the need to feel good about ourselves.  We work so hard at building a case for it. We barely pull together enough proof of our worth and then we are offended again, our house of cards falls and we are indignant at the person who robbed us of our dignity.

But what if you didn’t play that game? What if you stepped  out of that system all together and played by a different set of rules? What if you didn’t feel the need to prove to the world or yourself your worth? What if you believed that you have intrinsic value simply by the fact that you were created by an infinite all-loving God?

I think that’s what Nouwen is getting at.  When you get to that state of poverty (read humility) then no one can take anything away from you. You are free. Free to give. Free to forgive.

Question: What keeps you from stepping out of the “system” and needing to prove to others your worth? Leave your comment below.

Learn more about finding your worth in Healing the Hurts of Your Past.


Guilt That Leads Away From God

Guilt that Leads Away From God

Guilt that Leads Away From God

Did you know that there is a guilt that leads away from God?

In Henri Nouwen‘s daily devotional called “Show Me the Way” he speaks about two kinds of guilt; one that leads you to God and one that sends you away. He says…

There is an awareness of sin that does not lead to God but rather to self-preoccupation. Our temptation is to be so impressed by our sins and failings and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity that we get stuck in a paralyzing guilt. It is the guilt that says: “I am too sinful to deserve God’s mercy.” It is the guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God. It is the guilt that has become an idol and therefore a form of pride.

…The question is: “Are we like Judas, who was so overcome by his sin that he could not believe in God’s mercy any longer and hanged himself, or are we like Peter who returned to his Lord with repentance and cried bitterly for his sins?”  

The Peter/Judas contrast is striking to me. Peter went on to lead the church. For some reason he was able to tap into the true essence of God’s mercy and forgiveness and it was life changing. But Judas let his sin and guilt crush him.

How do you handle your guilt? Does it lead you to God or away from him? My prayer for you is that you, like Peter,  might find God’s life changing mercy and forgiveness for your past and rise to fulfill your God-given purpose.