Perhaps one of the greatest things we need to unlearn after our time at Teen Mania is our destructive attitudes towards ourselves. This practice of devaluing every intern is so commonplace at the Honor Academy that we internalize the self-criticism and it actually becomes part of our inner Christian life. Being hard on yourself is seen as a spiritual trait, sometimes it is even called “discipline.”
This devaluing takes place in so many different ways.
First, there is a devaluing of your physical body. The mantra “I beat my body and make it my slave” is used out of context to make interns feel that their body’s needs for rest and pain relief are evil. When interns are told that they can sleep when they are dead, the body’s need for rejuvenation and rest are devalued.
Second, there is a devaluing of your emotions and desires. Most of the time they are simply referred to as “the flesh.” And of course, the flest must die. If you want to do something that does not conform to the party line, you must “die to your flesh.” The list of emotions that are off-limits to interns is long. But you can’t get rid of your emotions this way, you can only suppress them. They will eventually come out one way or another. And unfortunately, when they do, you will be trained to treat them as enemies, not as tools given by God to give you insight into yourself.
Third, there is a devaluing of your spiritual worth before God. With twisted Scriptures you are taught that God won’t love you anymore if you leave the Honor Academy early. You are pressured at every turn to perform in the acceptable Christian manner lest you be confronted and judged as one with a “bad attitude” or “problem with authority.” This robs you of your confidence before God as one created by Him with love and tender care.
And so, many of us internalized this harsh self-criticism until it wasn’t just Teen Mania that abused us. We learned to abuse ourselves. And we were told that this was the Christian life. But its not.
Is it possible to just live loved and enjoy your life?
Is it the “Christian” thing to do?
Until very recently, I didn’t know I had permission to enjoy my life. After all, I was in a spiritual war! There were souls at stake and Christianity was a zero sum game where any time or care I took for myself meant I was taking it from someone else.
But is that really life in a kingdom where Jesus can feed a crowd on five loaves and two fishes?
Is abusing my body to the point of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion really necessary to do the work of the kingdom?
Or does our best “work” flow out of life saturated in grace, love and joy?
Did God free us from His condemnation so that we could take the job upon ourselves? Or is this self-abuse, guised in spiritual terms, merely a ploy to rob us of our rightful state of love, joy and complete acceptance?
We must learn to give ourselves self-care, not self-abuse.