If I could count how many times I took something personally that was not personal in any way…I’d be a very, very, very tired person.
Who here has taken someone’s anger, disappointment, tears, snubbing, etc personally?
How many times have you analyzed a particular situation from EVERY POSSIBLE ANGLE and landed on that it must be something personally wrong with YOU?
And woven a story to defend yourself?
It’s not me!
Only to find another story weaving its way right back to you.
But it must be me!
This week I discovered that for many situations, it’s not me personally…
…but it’s up to ME how I go on from it.
It’s the lie that can grow out of a mishap that obscures, and rooting out lies is impossible without trusting God for guidance and direction.
Not sure what I’m talking about?
Let’s talk stories.
Like that time my boss yelled at me for moving our client docs to Google Drive without asking…You are the most unthinking person on the planet! he’d exploded, along with several expletives.
Our supervisor-in-training (whom I was training!) had suggested the idea. And I’d said let’s do it without a second thought. After the blood-and-guts yelling scene, I walked my several months-pregnant self to the bathroom and cried until well past office hours.
And a story cemented within me…
He hates me. I’ll never do anything right. I definitely won’t train someone again.
Six months later I washed my hands of that job and promised myself to never work for someone like that again.
Or that time I wrote an article on an important woman my English department chair had graciously connected me with…only to have my subject phone me and point out I had misconstrued her story completely. Full of mischaracterizations! she’d huffed. This write-up isn’t me at all!
I had added details in the gaps of the story that had made sense to me. But they weren’t the facts. Between my I’m sorry’s and her well, I never’s, I was certain I would not only never interview someone again, I would never write again.
Living in those feelings, this story took form.
She hates me. I’m a terrible writer.
The following summer I decided journalism wasn’t for me and dejected, resigned myself to whatever next job I could find.
Still another time I remember the face of a tear-streaked mom who came to me inconsolable because I’d sent her 4-year old on a field trip with the pre-K class I was teaching…How could you? She’d sobbed.
I’d misread her note that had said Don’t send Michael on the trip today as Do send Michael on the trip today. They had recently lost their home to a fire and she had wanted him to stay onsite at the preschool that day. Tears ran down my cheeks too, but for a different reason.
I’m a terrible person and teacher, I believed. I can’t be trusted to do the right thing. I should not be in charge.
The following summer I said goodbye to that job and joyfully went onto graduate school, promising myself I’d never be in charge of kids again.
Ha. Ha. Ha. Have you seen my life?
These are all stories I’ve written without pen, paper, or type.
These falsehoods I nurtured and cultivated by choosing the route of self-pity and self-loathing. I’m astonished to realize how deeply these roots have grown, and over 15 years!
While that’s a sad path, it’s far easier than trying. It’s incredible how fragile we are, how easily broken, hurt, and how almost beyond repair we can feel.
Yet thankfully we are not completely beyond repair.
As I have begun to ask the Lord to guide me to the truth, He strikes through these strongholds. He begins to root them out!
It’s not easy.
It’s much harder actually.
Seeing yourself in the full light of truth is harsh. Thankfully, the Lord is there to comfort, support, provide, and accept us right where we are.
Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy.
1 Tim 1:15 MSG
None of these mishaps were the result of me being a bad apple. This lie that it’s gotta be me, or that there is something deeply and personally wrong with ME is wrong.
Yes, I do make mistakes–that is the truth; but my mistakes do not make me bad.
As I have asked the Lord to show me, he has revealed these truths.
#1 Truth: My life is full to the brim with mishaps, misdeeds, and misunderstandings.
Um, whose isn’t?
#2 Truth: the stories I have written were to help explain myself out of blame, away from guilt, apart from tears and bad memories….
I’ve got to stop stuffing those experiences away and face them. What is it He wants me to learn from these situations?
#3 Truth: Repression and denial don’t work!
I’m sure I knew that already…..
It’s not me…but it is up to me how I go on from here.
So today I sat down and moved these stories from my head to print so I could begin to learn how to start recognizing lies and pluck them up before they ever lay a root!
To do this, it’s important to recognize signature weaknesses and strengths we each have. For example, I love connecting with others and putting them at ease. So I easily and naturally reach out to everyone I meet with a friendly hello and wave. But on the flip side, I am desperately afraid of being rejected and therefore have a tendency to read every criticism (or stern face, frown, unacknowledged hello, yawn even!) as a personal attack.
“Tend to your knitting”
To stop writing false stories, we have to submit to accountability.
Sorry, there is no better pic than this one for this feeling.
Truth is that each of us is called to give an account to how we respond to all of life. Not to overwhelm anyone here–God is full of grace! For me I must learn that my call-to-account doesn’t require explaining all the reasons that led to bad decisions, thoughtless actions, or inadvertent mistakes. It certainly shouldn’t go on for 15 years!
10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:
“As I live and breathe,” God says,
“every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
that I and only I am God.”
So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.
Romans 14:10-12 MSG
Instead of focusing on the causes of my life-pain, like a boss, a lady, or a parent…even if they are wrong…I need to listen for the Lord’s direction and let him guide me out. Obviously I’m terrible at self-guiding–wait, is that self-loathing again???
In any case, if I don’t quit trying to explain why I ran out of gas, I’m never going to get out of the ditch, right? Some things just need to be faced and moved on from.
Accountability is harder than the pity party
I’ll be the first one to admit…
It’s easier to ignore the truth behind the mishap.
It’s far easier to feel hurt than to ask what went wrong.
It’s far easier to stew and brew in anger than to reach out and say I’m sorry.
It’s far easier to clam up, withdraw, and avoid ever doing something again than it is to listen, love, and try again.
It’s far easier to listen to the lie that I am a bad employee, a terrible writer, an awful teacher instead of supplying the truth in their place:
I’m a great employee who made a rash decision;
I’m a developing writer who is learning how to separate personal feelings from life facts;
I’m a thoughtful teacher who did not focus on the details one morning.
Who else is ready to re-contextualize mishaps, misdeeds, and misunderstandings? Accept where you went wrong. Identify and put out those stories rising up. And get right with reality.
It’s not always me…but what I allow to be written in my soul, heart, and mind is up to me.
Why not invite the Holy Spirit to help you discern the truth? I promise He’ll be right there to surround and lift you up as it comes to light.
Don’t lose your grip on Love and Loyalty.
Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart.
Earn a reputation for living well
in God’s eyes and the eyes of the people.
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Proverbs 3:4-7a MSG