Satan, "the accuser of our brethren" (see Revelation 12:10), is a bully. He wants nothing more than to see us lose faith in our worth and our potential. He wants to see us fail, so he whispers to us things that he knows will keep us from our life mission.

I believe Satan knows each of us intimately. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses, and likely also knows our appointed mission on the earth. He will do everything he can to prevent us from completing it. To do this, he entices us to sin - to love our comforts and pleasures more than God. But that's only half his approach. He also bullies us. He uses our mistakes to tell us that we are bad, and uses other people around us to reinforce that message. He knows that if we begin to believe we are bad he can at the very least keep us from doing good, but at the worst get us to give up and give in. He tells us exactly the thing that, if we believe it, will get us to run away from our gifts which, if we embraced them, would change the world.

In every sense of the word, Satan abused me. He berated me in my mind for my mistakes. He got others to tell me things he wanted me to believe about myself that I didn't yet believe or that I had successfully beaten back in my mind. He sought out the most hurtful, painful things he could say to me and repeated them in my head and from the mouths of others. Seeking to twist my perception of good, he said that perhaps my desire for hugs, for arms around the shoulder, for close male friends meant something more than simple desire for close friendship. He told me that perhaps my silliness was a characteristic that meant I was gay. He whispered that if I even thought about a woman being beautiful, I was vile and something to be hated. As a result of these and other stories he told me, my body's normal physiological reactions became confused and retargeted. I became afraid of being around others of my own gender. I became afraid that I would do something to hurt someone else, or hurt my chances at returning to God's presence. So I isolated myself from everyone, including from myself.

The fear and self-loathing I experienced also contributed to a fundamental misunderstanding I had about the atonement. I thought that I had to do everything I could to approach perfection before I could get any help from God. I bought Satan's lies about me - that my body is evil, that my feelings for others are inherently wrong and twisted, and that I have to prove my own worth. So I tried to prove that I was worth something. I did everything I could to be perfect in terms of keeping all the rules, and hated myself when I did not live up to my own high expectations. I hid my thoughts, feelings, quirkiness and fun-loving from other people because I was afraid of what they would think. In many ways, I quested for worthiness - to feel worthwhile in the eyes of others. I became enmeshed with those I loved who also loved me, never voicing my true thoughts because I was afraid that if I did I would lose the relationship.

Finally, I broke. I could no longer keep up the facade without serious psychological consequences. I had severe bouts of suicidal ideation - wanting to throw myself in the way of oncoming traffic, drown myself in a river or jump off a cliff. These feelings were messages that some profound, fundamental change needed to take place (see The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren). So - that's what happened - I faced my problems head on. I stopped running from my feelings and instead I paid attention to them. I tried to understand them. I stopped believing everything I thought.

How these changes came about is a topic for later posts, but what I know now is this: I am worth something no matter what. Satan can scream at me that I'm terrible, that my innermost desires are filthy, that the help I received is an illusion. He can get others to tell me the same things. He can work himself to the brink, but I will not listen. I'm done.

I'm done listening to Satan, the Enemy, the Bully, the Accuser of our brethren.

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash