Tonight my son got in trouble for hurting the neighbor kid because he wouldn't do what he wanted him to do. As we explained to him that this was unacceptable behavior and that we would not tolerate it he just re-emphasized over and over again that he was just so mad. He even felt justified on some level because he thought in some way that he was trying to obey us, do what was right, but in the end it only put him in a position of losing privileges and possibly a friend.
Whether we are taught it or it is something we just sort of pick up is this idea that if someone doesn't see something our way, do it like we want them to do it, that they are saying something is wrong with us. We learn to somehow internalize it, take it personal and until we think others are doing or seeing things our way, we feel jaded. Sometimes we lash out in anger towards them. My son at six is just all of us in little kid form.
For years as I struggled with my depression so much of it was based in my negative self talk. I thought it was my personal responsibility to make sure that everyone liked me and that everyone thought that what I was doing was what I "should" be doing. No one ever asked me to apply for this job, I took it upon myself.
"Should I say that?", "should I post that?" "will they still be my friend?" "will they still like me?" and I never really knew, so I just became paralyzed. I became so worried about what others thought, I started losing sight of what I thought, what God thought.
So much of this all took place in my head, in secret arguments only I was present for, but they were really getting it in there. No man was left standing once I let them know what was up. And that was yet the other extreme, that I would become angry at them for holding me captive to their opinions. Sometimes that anger would seep out all over the place, all over people who were, many times, just innocent by standers. So I either felt paralyzed or furious, there seemed to be no calming middle ground. Why wouldn't they just let me have my opinion, let me do or say whatever I wanted. Who cares what "they" thought? I did, I cared a lot. In either extreme the reality was, I was the one left powerless but I was never to blame.
I would always here people say things like "don't give your power away" or "people only treat you how you let them" and it sounded all well and good, but what did that even mean? As I started learning more about boundaries, it very slowly started to become clear. And I mean, as slow as a snail, slow. Because it's hard to let go of blame. It's hard to let go of trying to somehow control, even if only in your own mind, what everyone thinks of you, how you are possibly being perceived. I was addicted to approval, of being liked, but the thing about it was, as addicted as I was to it, I never really got it. Over time and falling flat on my face over and over (still happening by the way) I began to realize that I only have control over what I think, over my feelings, over my behavior.
What a concept right? I choose what I think, I choose what I feel about myself, I choose how I respond to people. I was so busy trying to figure out whose fault it was that I was feeling this way that I never considered I was the one ultimately in charge of everything that was pouring out of me. Coming to the conclusion that no matter what others think of me, I know the real me. No matter how much I try and show them how much I love God, how much I am trying to serve and honor Him, how much I have prayed over a situation or thought through a decision tediously, if they still choose to think that I am a less than, ungodly, hooligan, then they are also exercising their choice.
We all have boundaries; physical, emotional, relational. Just like our property lines, what happens within where I live is my responsibility. A great quote I have heard is "keep your side of the street clean" meaning, what is happening on their side of the street is up to them, but I choose what my side looks like. No amount of judgement, disapproving look, thoughts or comments from the other side of the street need matter, because they don't have authority to care for my side, only I do.
I began to ask myself, what does God think, what about my husband, my mom or my sister?What about those couple friends that I know really love me in-spite of all my flaws, what do they think? If they have concerns, I will listen, because I know they love me and I have grown to trust them. Outside of that, no one else really has a say.
"Who do I want to be?" is the same as asking "how will I keep my side of the street?" I began to ask myself this question and slowly but surely I am answering myself.
(I told you I have got this talking to myself thing down)
I want to be the type of person who supports and believes in other people.
If someone else has a dream, a call, a heart for something, I want to believe for them big. Follow them, share them, support them, applaud them, even if they never do it back, because that is the kind of person I want to be.
I want to be joyful.
I want to giggle and enjoy life, look for the little things and be silly and laugh at myself. Believe me, I am way too serious for my own good, so I want to be more of someone who can find the humor in every day life. Someone who is a joy to be around, that is the kind of person I want to be.
I want to be passionate.
I have long loathed my passion and intensity as I looked at myself through other people's eyes. "A little too much, aren't we Ashley?" I would hear the mocking voice in my head say. You know who are too much kind of people; people who care, people who change the world, people who have burning hearts and are compelled to no longer sit silently in apathy but push through to the more. I am not sorry anymore that I love things like taking pictures and social media. I love art and writing and journaling and coffee, and I love Jesus. I will not be more tame and share less of my passion for any of those things because if I did, I would be lying. Someone who is exactly who they were made to be and is unafraid to follow God into those passions, that is the kind of person I want to be.
I want to be loving.
Even when people reject me, push me away, refuse to believe in me or root for me in any way, I want to love them anyway. I want to love people who disagree with me and think differently. I want to talk with respect and patience to the woman checking out my groceries like she is a human and not like she owes me something. I want to move through life with peace and go around sprinkling that junk around like confetti because the Lord knows we need more peace and patience. Someone who doesn't easily let someone else's foul mood pull me in with them, because it's theirs and not mine. Just because I feel it, doesn't make me responsible for it. I want to be free to decide differently and choose love because that brings me more joy and peace, that is the kind of person I want to be.
I want to be resilient and authentic.
I make a million mistakes daily. I am always worried I am not a good enough house keeper, mother, wife, friend, and Christian. Instead of being crushed under my "not good enough's" and all that condemnation, I want to be honest and real and confess, "I messed up, I did it wrong, I failed" and then try again. I want to admit that I am still in process and get it wrong all the time, but never ever give up, no matter how many times I miss that mark again. Someone who is OK with not being perfect in anyway and let's people in on the secret that it is somehow OK to be still learning what it means to do be godly, loving, passionate, joyful. To be both fully aware that I am not yet fully changed and it's OK to be growing closer every day. **Shhh, it might be a secret but no one has made it to perfection yet, not even knowing how much they need to be. Not a one!***
Other people's choices of how they behave in real life, or online, does not dictate to me who I am going to be. I get to decide every day. I may get invited to join them in some drama or mud slinging, and let's be honest, I might just show up now and then when those old songs sing frustratingly in my soul. But I hope that as the Lord helps me to renew my mind little by little and teaches me over and over again to take my thoughts captive, that I become more and more free, just as He died for me to be.
, by Ashley Jackson