The Bright Side: Stained glass

Published 12:10 pm Thursday, February 23, 2023

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“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.” – Pope John Paul II

Is it not easier to chastise ourselves than to praise ourselves? We’re constantly being told to “not let our pride get in the way,” but when do we hear that we should go easy on ourselves? I have a hard time accepting praise, for I have always felt that I can do better than my best. I tend to criticize every aspect of myself for my own betterment, when in reality I’m harping on things that need room to grow.

I was reminded the other day of an event that took place at a time in my life where I was at rock bottom. Without going into too many details, I acted in such a way that was completely out of character for me. I prefer to move through a crowd without being noticed; attention was never a friend of mine, perhaps because I received too much of the wrong kind of it when I was little. Picture this: a young girl with short hair, glasses and braces, while proving to be the tallest young lady in her third-grade class. That combination did not win me many friends, and therefore I have preferred going unnoticed ever since.

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It took me a long time to forgive myself for acting in such a way that people were worried for me, and it still stings to remember. No, I was not mentally in a good state at all back then, the night of this particular event especially. But I didn’t want other people outside of my immediate family knowing about it.

After picking up the pieces of shattered glass that night, literally and figuratively, I knew it was time to turn my life around. And I did. But instead of being proud of how far I’ve come, that memory brought me back to the night I was most ashamed of myself. And the progress I had made seemed to vanish.

Why do we do that to ourselves? Well, darkness loves to seep into our weak spots. And just when we are most fragile, it knocks on our door ever so lightly, without warning, and welcomes itself in. Bitterness takes root, and soon enough we are berating ourselves for the things we are least proud of, for the mistakes we once made.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. God calls us to forgive ourselves. We must remember that His mercies are new every morning. If we acknowledge our faults and our failures, and simply ask for His grace, God will have mercy on us. Then, it is up to us to let it go, fully giving it to Him.

We must be kind to ourselves, for it is in our nature to make mistakes, but it is also in our best interest to not let the past burden our backs and keep us from the progress that lies just ahead. I believe the best way to be a kind person is to first be gentle with ourselves.

Now when people compliment me, instead of shrugging it off and turning the attention back on them immediately, I’ve started to thank them first, then return the sentiment. When I accomplish a new feat, I thank God, and remember that He created me in such a way that I was capable of overcoming whatever hurdles may cross my path. (I’ve always held close to my heart the notion that God does not give us anything we cannot handle). And now when I remember the night of the event that left me shattered, I look back on myself with care, reminding myself of how far I’ve come, and how God has shined His light onto the darkest parts of me. Now I try to see myself as a mosaic of stained glass rather than a broken vessel.

With the season of love upon us, I urge you to not only show love unto others, but to take time to show that same love to yourself. Today is a great day to forgive yourself for the perceived shortcomings and bad decision and unintentional mistakes. It’s a wonderful month to lighten the load on your back and make room for the love God so willingly and graciously gives.

And in the words of PJPII, “allow the light and the healing presence of Christ to shine brightly through your lives. In that way, all those who come in contact with you will discover the loving kindness of God.”

Danielle Puleo is a staff writer for The Coastland Times. Reach her at