Sometimes I think life would be much easier if I were a machine.
For instance, I’ve come to learn through reading and counseling that I have a lot of faulty thought patterns that contribute to my anxiety and depression. (Example: “I am not worthy of love or acceptance unless I do everything perfectly.”) So, as part of my treatment, I’m trying to correct them. (Example: “God loves and accepts me unconditionally, and my performance has nothing to do with my worth.”) It’s insanely frustrating because even though I intellectually “know” these truths, I struggle to actually believe and put faith in them and know them emotionally, and as a result, my actions and life often don’t reflect them.
But if I were a machine, I could just program the truths into my system, and then I’d know it, and then my life would “run” on that truth. Input: God loves and accepts you no matter what. Output: A productive, fulfilling life of peace, hope, and love toward others. Done and done. I’d be a lean, mean, fightin’ machine. But darn it if I’m not a human being who has emotions and physical needs and bad days and all other kinds of inconveniences. It’s not that simple at all.
The problem is, I still treat myself as if I were, in fact, a machine. I expect myself to “just do it” and think correctly and act correctly. But if I’m a machine, I’m a broken one whose output half the time is ERROR, my anxious brain kicking into overdrive and overheating itself until unplugging and rebooting is in order. And how do we treat broken, non-functioning machines? In a word, badly. We call them names: stupid, piece of garbage, worthless. We smack them around until they work again or sometimes even throw them on the ground. Eventually, if they keep letting us down, we throw them away and get the new and improved model.
Although this isn’t ideal behavior in general, it’s not so bad when we do this to machines because 1) they don’t have feelings, and 2) their only purpose in life is to get things done. If they can’t get ‘er done, they really ARE worthless. But doing this to people is devastatingly harmful. And while I would never dream of treating others this way, I don’t think twice when I do it to myself. (In fact, I didn’t even realize how out of proportion my self-critique was until I was engaged to Dave. We had to answer a bunch of questions about each other for pre-marital counseling, and he said that one of my weaknesses was that I tend to beat myself up a lot. Although it seems laughably obvious now, it really took me by surprise at the time.)
But, as I can say from self-experience, woe to you if you treat yourself like you treat your malfunctioning phone. That is the path to crippling depression and despair. Remember that you are a person, not a machine. Whatever it is you’re trying to change in your life doesn’t define you. Your existence is not about getting crap done. You’re not worthless if you’re not producing results the way you think you should. You don’t deserve to be thrown out when you mess up. What you need to do, as my Dave always tells me, is to show yourself grace, the way God does.
So even on those days when you’re frustrated that you just can’t seem to do what you want to, be glad that you’re human, as inefficient and maddening as we can be, and not a machine. After all, you know who was once described as being more machine than man? Darth Vader. We all know how well that worked out for him.