the pains of humility.

Note: The past two days have been a study in humility. In choking down my pride and in accepting correction.

Valentine’s Day. The last Valentine’s I had I was in a relationship and I received a plethora of jewelry from my now ex-boyfriend. It was not expensive – but it was a thoughtful gift. He had made sure that each piece would fit my personality. Two months later it was over.

This Valentine’s Day I was emotionally raw. I had tried to share my feelings with a close friend. I was hoping for some comfort. And, like the true extrovert I am, I was hoping for some company. Only to learn that my friend had been invited to another Valentine’s event by a mutual acquaintance – one I was not invited to. It was hard not to feel somewhat betrayed. Logically I know my friend had nothing to do with my not being included. She has no say over who attends this event. She did not even plan it. It was not the lack of invitation that I felt hurt over. I could not explain why I was feeling so hurt until it hit me. I was hoping for some expression of sorrow – and of comfort. I wanted so badly to hear “I’m sorry you weren’t invited, I would have liked for you to be there.” Even if it was not up to her. But my friend is an introvert. And to an introvert, silences are most comforting when one does not know what to say. To an extrovert however, silences are understood as a lack of care or feeling. So here I am, struggling to be logical while my heart and emotions pester me to continue to be hurt. But, I had made another discovery as I sat alone on my unmade, stripped down bed. I discovered that at times, I can be a spoiled, indulgent, entitled child. I am someone who expects every day to go perfectly. And when a day somehow veers out of my control or goes awry I swell up in (what I believe to be) righteous fury or I wallow in despair. Certainly I am not the first woman who has had to spend a Valentine’s alone. Certainly this does not mean that I am not well-loved. My friend has spent the last four Sundays with me, patiently being a quiet comfort while I cry and rage at God. She sends me encouraging texts every morning and night. She invites me in even though I know I often invade her precious time and space. I know our friendship has forced her out of her comfort zone and yet she plods through, putting my needs above her own on many occasions. If that is not an assurance of love I do not know what is. I must remember that a painting is the sum of it’s brush strokes – and not simply as good as it’s last one. A book is formed by all of it’s chapters – not merely a paragraph at the end. Humility Lesson #1.

Then today, my dearest friend in the world – the person I consider as a sister of my heart and soul – informed me that a mutual friend of ours had sought her out for a project. This friend of ours had introduced her to a person she would be working with. That person (as our mutual friend well knows) is someone who has hurt me considerably. She has hurt me so badly that we have not spoken in years. And here she was, daring to communicate with a member of my family. I again felt the sting of betrayal. This time directed to the friend who had acted as a bridge between who I consider most precious to me and who I would rather forget exists. Why did she not inform me? Was this the only project she could offer my friend? Again, I had to swallow my pride. This is a wonderful opportunity for my friend. I think the hurt stems from being kept in the dark – not being consulted or forewarned. But then again why do I feel entitled to being forewarned? No one owes me any explanations. Though I still admit to feeling a lack of care in the handling of the situation that pokes at my insecure heart, I can also admit that this is not about me. This is about my wonderfully talented friend – and another friend who saw fit to provide her with an opportunity. Humility Lesson #2.

I also need to admit I felt a certain sting that my dear friend was still willing to work with this person. That she did not immediately say “well now I will never work with her because she hurt you!”. Even as I logically told her (and myself) that she would be remiss to pass up this opportunity. I am a flawed emotional human being. And I badly wanted to hear some assurance that she was hurt on my behalf. But why should it always be about me? Can I not simply revel in the fact that someone who has supported me and loved me through my darkest hours is getting a wonderful opportunity to shine? Oh, it is not fun to be an adult and learn that you have the capacity to be as petty and immature as a child. Humility Lesson #3.

It is so hard for me to accept that my feelings might be out of place. Because, I have had a lifetime of learning to marshal my feelings – always trying to be perfect and proper and above all else, logical. Because of this, I resent any suggestion that my feelings might be pointing me to believing untruths. I have an insatiable need to be in control of my feelings and I do not like when my emotions get the better of me. I do not like that I feel hurt. I keep telling myself I do not have the right.

But perhaps – having the right to feel hurt – is not at all the same as being right because of your hurt. In other words, they can be mutually exclusive. I am hurt – and that is not wrong. But it does not mean that I am correct in my assumptions that I have been wronged. Perhaps I can acknowledge the feelings, then move on without attempting to control the world around me or have it suffer for (in my eyes) failing me.

Learning humility is a tricky business.

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TRUTH THURSDAYS 15: FOR YOUR APPROVAL

Growing up I was always the people-pleaser.  My life was dictated by what my parents, family, and friends thought of me.  Hell, my life was dictated by what strangers thought of me.  Do you know what that’s like?  Living life walking on eggshells and watching everything you say or do because you have no idea how it’s going to be received?  How you’re going to be received?  It’s paralyzing.  I was living in a constant state of fear.  “Why did I say that?”  “Was she offended?”  “Do they still like me?”  “What can I do to fix this?”  The result being that I was a quivering mass of insecurities with no clear identity.

I was jealous of people who could just be themselves and not care about the consequences.  People that accepted their flaws and rolled with it.  My best friend in particular was one of those people I was envious of.  She was loud, outgoing, funny, cracked inappropriate jokes at times, and was the life of the party everywhere she went.  I wasn’t jealous of the attention she got – I was jealous of how comfortable she was in her own skin.  I desperately wanted to be that way.

Around 3 years ago I went through group therapy.  During the course of this process I rediscovered myself – identified which parts of my personality were authentic and which parts I had developed to either play the victim or to play the star of the show.  I threw those parts away and focused on being a real, authentic, true person.  I let God redefine who I was.  He showed me the parts of me that I had been suppressing.  And I got really really comfortable in my own skin.

The flip side of that?  I started disappointing people who were used to getting what they wanted out of me.  Because I had no clear identity or personality I had been a chameleon of sorts – giving each person what I thought they wanted to see or hear from me.  All of a sudden I was saying “no, I don’t want to do that, that’s not who I am” and it didn’t go over so well.  But you know what?  Once you get used to letting people down – it just isn’t such a big deal anymore.  I encourage everyone to try it – disappointing people that is.  It’s good for you – you realize you can survive someone thinking poorly of you.  It’s good for them – they realize that no one’s perfect and everyone will let you down at some point.  I’m not saying go out of your way to let people down or hurt them – I’m saying be true to yourself even when others don’t understand.

Obviously, all of that is in context of loving God and loving others.  I don’t want this to sound like an excuse to be a person that doesn’t accept rebuke or correction.  But I definitely think that we should be able to hear correction and go “I’ll pray about that, let me check with God and see if He feels the same way about me as you do”.  Because the truth is, we don’t have to accept everything people say about us.  But we do have to accept ourselves – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It’s been a while since I cared what people thought of me.  I do have some people in my life that have the power to really hurt me by being disappointed in me.  I am okay with that – being vulnerable and exposed with certain people in my life.  But thank God that I have stopped feeling that way about everyone.  Thank God I have stopped letting the world define me.

A couple of years ago I was the girl that would adapt different personalities to deal with different friends.  I would be lost in groups because I didn’t know how to be 5 different people in one setting.  Today I’m the girl that is herself in any setting.  I won’t apologize for who I am – I can be intimidating, I like to dress well, and I have a sassy strong personality.  I can be flexible and accommodate people – but I’m not going to change myself so others feel more comfortable with me.  I may have a harder time of it because of this but I’m not going to trade the security I’ve found in being who God designed me to just for the desire to feel like I belong.

I’m who I am for God’s approval.  Full stop.

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Truth Thursdays exists to connect people through writing.  To initiate something honest, thoughtful, and meaningful.  Truth Thursdays is an open discussion of expressions. There are no right or wrong responses, Truth Thursdays are just what they are.