Shame, Jealousy, and Judgement

Hey, all. Long time no see. Today I want to talk to you about something that’s been heavy on my heart…kinda. Really, it’s just something I’ve been struggling with a lot recently. Something that’s been heavy on my heart? Pshhhh. Please, that kind of talk is for someone other than me.

I texted a friend today. As recent high school graduates looking at moving forward in our lives, she chose to take a gap year. However, she did move down to the state she’d be in for college (Texas) at the end of June. I hadn’t talked to her in a week or two, so I texted her to see how she was doing and how she liked Texas. The story I got back was nothing short of amazing. I’ll shorten it a little, for the sake of the post: once she was down to Texas, she heard that the local library was a place where homeless people hung out. So she went to pay them a visit. When I texted her today, it was the third time she’d gone to the library. She cut up some watermelon to take with her to share, an headed down. Lo and behold, passing out watermelon turned into an hour-long discussion with five homeless men about their lives and faith. This resulted in her being invited to go to the local church these guys went to, and she and a friend are going there tomorrow. How cool! Amazing how God works stuff out! But there, not only with but overpowering my joy for my sister in Christ and my awe at God’s handiwork, was a deep-seated, black, intense, poisoning, controlling jealousy. I regret what I texted next. It doesn’t seem too bad…but I texted her “You really don’t know how to live quietly…although that’s a good thing lol”. Really? Is my jealousy as obvious to you guys as it is to me? It’s true, that is a good thing. We, as Christians, are not called to live quietly. Quite the opposite, in fact. “You really don’t know how to live quietly…”. I regret texting that, but at this moment in time, if I could do over, I’m not sure I’d be able to change anything. Remember how I described my jealousy as controlling earlier? Yeah. Like a monster in my own skin, my jealousy looked me in the eye and spoke out of my own mouth. The bible says that what pours out of the mouth comes from the heart. Apparently, my heart is a monster. Which brings me to my next item: shame. I know perfectly well that any jealousy at all is bad. Really, really bad. Because even if it seems small, it can turn into something so much bigger. I just made a comment to my friend that could have really hurt her. She replied with a smiley face, but…I can’t know anything for sure. Or maybe it doesn’t hurt her now but will later. If I’m lucky…or really, if God is protecting her from the consequences of my jealousy – she won’t have noticed. I don’t know for sure. But what I do know is that now I am riddled with an equally deep-seated, equally black, equally intense, equally poisoning, and equally controlling shame. Perhaps more so, because we’re all tougher on ourselves, aren’t we? Shame over what I said. Shame over what I felt, and am feeling. Shame over many, many more things.

“I know better. I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember. Why am I so stupid? How could I say something so blatantly piercing? And trying to cover it up with light-heartedness made it seem FLIPPANT! I sounded like a non-Christian friend who secretly dislikes her. I sound like the type of friend that slowly poisons a relationship. How could I do this? Why am I always so slow? Why am I always so far behind everyone else, spiritually and maturity-wise? They’re all doing great things, like going on missions trips and helping the homeless and connecting with people and talking to them about their faith and.. and.. I’m doing NOTHING! Why don’t these opportunities come my way? I love people, even if I find it hard to talk to them. Why can’t I do something? Why am I so much worse than they are? They have themselves together, and I’m over here acting like a child!”

On and on and on it goes. Intense, raging jealousy. Violent, piercing shame. And, just as equal as the others: Silent, deadly judgement. About their faith, their attitude, their actions. Who is they? Everyone is they. My parents are they. My best friend is they. My other friends are they. My acquaintances are they. Strangers are they. Social media is they. Everyone, everywhere, and everything they do is subject to inspection and judgement, in so little time as the fleeting half-seconds between other thoughts. I feel dirty. I feel used. And it’s an intense, unbreakable cycle. I judge and get jealous. I feel shame. And so I judge and get jealous even more, trying to automatically shield myself from my own ugliness. Trying to ignore the monsters inside? Maybe. Trying to make myself feel better? Definitely. Succeeding? No, not really. So what do I do?

I’m sorry to say, I don’t know. Yeah, that’s right. I don’t know. I don’t have an answer. Or the answer. Who knows? My brain, of course, dutiful from-a-Christian-family grew-up-in-the-church-my-whole-life brain, says the answer is in Christ and his word. Not that I’ve been reading my bible…or regularly praying… Really, though, that’s my brain. Yeah, I know that God is the answer. I also know that jealousy is bad. It gets me about as far. If I really want to abolish these monsters, I need to act. I need to stay vigilant. Proverbs 4: 23 says “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” It’s exhausting work. I don’t even do it well and it’s exhausting! Looking at my heart and stabbing myself with a sword!? That’s painful, too. The very beginning of fixing this problem begins/  at the Bible. At the feet of Jesus. It takes diligence, and leaning on God. And guess what? That’s not all! I don’t know what all it will take, but that’s all I know to do. I’m sure there’s so much more to say, and I’m sure there’s so many more answers to give, but here’s something I need to do today. I need to stop. I need to get real. And I need to lay down any pretense of being put together. Because the truth is I am desperately, desperately broken. And if I want to do anything with this blog, anything at all, I want to be real. Even when I fail so often. And it sounds impressive (at least to me). But right now, I’m just broken and hurting. And I wanted to share this with you guys, because writing stuff out helps me think sometimes. And if it helps one of you (I hope it does), thank I can praise God for bringing beauty out of pain. But he will anyway, won’t he? I need to stop overthinking things and go, so…ciao.

 

Advertisements

Blessings and Comparisons

Okay, so all y’all should be used to my extremely sporadic posting by now. Sorry, but I don’t think that’s gonna change. But! I’m back with another post.

I  don’t know about you, but for a long time I’ve struggled with comparing myself to other Christians. There’s one group of girls in particular at my home church that I’ve struggled with comparisons. There’s three of them, two years ahead of me in school, and for so long I’ve looked at them and felt inferior. “They’re better Christians than me, better people than me. Look at how outgoing she is. Look at how people depend on her. Look at how nice and calm she is. Look at how popular she is.” We all know the tune, right? Someone who’s better at whatever we’re weak at. Well, I have a secret for you – most of the time, a weakness is just a strength taken too far.

For example. I am NOT a social person. I’ve gotten a LOT better since being at this residential high school, but I’ve always been the girl who sits outside the flow. I’m the one who is always alone, or if not, I’m certainly never part of a group. I’m the one always picked last in gym (still true, although I was picked not last a couple of weeks ago!), always the last to be chosen for group projects, and always sitting by herself for anything and everything if I could help it. And pushing people away when they tried to include me. I’ve always been scared of people, for no reason. For those who don’t know, I take after my dad a lot. I can’t say he’s ever been scared of people – I suspect maybe not – but he shared his introverted personality with me (I’m just more introverted). However, if you walked into our church and started talking with him, you’d never believe it. He seeks out people to talk to. He asks them how their day is going, how they are and how they feel. And they tell him. So many people tell him what is honestly going on because they know he cares. He makes sure they know. Now, this goes back to intentionality – I’ve written a lot about this, so go check out my other posts – but I think it would be fair to say that this is one of his strengths. He sees people, and not just the people in plain view. He sees the people who are hiding away, as well. I’m not as good at conversing with people (duh). But I know that I want to get to that point. I don’t have to be outgoing, just intentional. Because one day, I want to turn my weakness – how introverted I am – into a strength that allows me to see everyone, care with intentionality, and be a steady force and a steady person because these are skills I’ve had to learn.

On a similar note, one of many outgoing people’s weaknesses is seeing everyone and choosing to interact with everyone. This may seem counter-intuitive, but being on the opposite side of the spectrum, I’ve seen it in action. Outgoing people are so energetic, and they flit from person to person. While this means they do talk with a lot of people, often times they don’t even see the introvert in the corner. As someone who’s been so introverted she’d cry when forced to talk to someone for years, I developed my own little air about me. For some people (*ahem* extroverts), this draws the room’s attention to them. Some of it is because they have no problem talking and making noise, but some of it is because they just have this air that attracts attention. I, on the other hand, developed (fostered?) the exact opposite – an air that makes me invisible in many situations. I can be standing right by someone, off to the side, and they’ll ask “Where’s [my name]?” – or, if it’s someone I need something from, they might not even know I’m there unless I knock on their door or say something. I can be in a line or a crowded room and have people bump into me because my presence didn’t even register with them. This has (sadly) dispersed somewhat as I’ve grown more comfortable with people, but it still happens sometimes. And these are the people the extrovert does not see. They are so busy talking to everyone and moving on to the next person or activity or place, that they don’t see the people standing off to the side watching them and everyone else in the room. If they approach, they carry on a brief conversation and forget to come back once they’ve moved on. They don’t check to see if they need help, and even among their friends they are often so ready to move on that they miss when something is wrong and they need to slow down. As an extrovert, that is one of their weaknesses. As an introvert (with exceptions when I’m flustered from trying to socialize), that is one of my strengths. I’ve been that girl in the corner, so I see that girl in the corner.

Well. Back to the main point. Knowing that weaknesses are just strengths taken too far only helps so much, right? I mean, you can see that they have so many strengths, so they must be better at seeing and working on these things than you…not so. Here’s something that I realized recently, and it’s what really prompted me to write this. I am different from them. This seems so obvious, but it isn’t! I am different. I was looking at our personalities – she is more outgoing and I am more introverted, but hah! She sees her friend group and the other major groups, but she isn’t looking around. She sees what is put in front of her, but I look at what isn’t put in front of me! This, by the way is not 100% true – I’m sure she does look around sometimes, and I know that I don’t all the time, but I looked at her and I looked at me and I saw that I am better at something. And then I looked at her and I looked at me and I saw that our upbringings were different – she with her ultra-involved mother and outgoing personality and childhood friends and clean sun-lit home and desire to try new things and involvement in so much, and me with my introverted but intentional father who made me try new things when I didn’t want to and was willing to help but didn’t necessarily want to lead but could if he had to and my special-needs brother that restricted where we could go and my distinct lack of friends for a long time and my introverted personality and I saw that we were different. I was different from her and she was different from me, so why was I comparing us? Our personalities are different. Our upbringings were and are different. Our parents are different. Our support is different. So, if we are so extremely different, why wouldn’t our strengths and weaknesses and growth be different to?

For the first time, I thought that we each had our own strengths – that her strengths that I saw were not my strengths and they weren’t supposed to be. I wasn’t – I’m NOT – supposed to grow into a carbon copy of her. I’m not supposed to have her strengths, I’m supposed to have my own! If I chase after her strengths, I won’t have time to focus on my own. When God uses me, he doesn’t want her strengths – if he did, he would use her! When God uses me, he wants MY strengths (and sometimes, MY weaknesses). When he uses me, he chose me for a reason. There are things that she can do that I can’t – talking to people, for example. BUT! There are just as many things that I can do that she can’t! And the best part is, I don’t even see all of them yet! I don’t know how I will develop in the future, but I know that I will be different from her (I say her because my ladder of comparison, if you will, went youth group -> group of three girls -> one girl in particular). Even my growth! It’s common knowledge that guys mature slower than girls – it’s why girls sprout up in middle school and guys sprout up in high school. They aren’t worse than girls, they just have different timing. Well, so de we! God’s timing for me, even my timing for me, is going to be different from her timing (ignore the fact that she is two years older than me, please). I’m going to sprout at a different time from her, and she’s going to sprout at a different time from me. And whatever that looks like, that’s okay! If it looks like she socializes better, that’s okay. I can go build up that girl in the corner who’s sad because no one is talking to her. She hangs out in a group, great! I can hang out with people one-on-one. It looks like she sprouted first, that’s fine. I didn’t need to sprout right then, I needed to sprout later. Think about, for example, a rose and a tulip – tulips bloom early in the spring, roses in the summer or fall. Does that mean either flower is better or worse? No! It just means God designed them with different timelines in mind.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, but I recently found out about The Bagel Theory (from an email letter from Stephanie May Wilson, who’s letter series she wrote to her single younger self I signed up for, and she heard it from her friend Hanna). Here’s the excerpt that explains this:

“When I was in high school, a musical theater director of mine introduced me to his personal theory I like to call The Bagel Theory.

Hear me out.

All of us musical theater kids, we were all bagels. My friend Chloe was a chocolate chip bagel; My friend Anna was a sesame bagel; I was a blueberry bagel.  You get the idea.  We were all great bagels, but we were each a different kind of bagel.

When auditioning for a certain role, Chloe, Anna, and I could all be up for the same part.  We would all be uniquely great for the role, but at the end of the day, the casting director was looking for a certain type of bagel.  Chloe may get the gig because they were looking for a chocolate chip bagel.  It didn’t mean that Anna or I weren’t amazing bagels. We just weren’t the bagels they were looking for.

Suddenly, getting rejected for a part wasn’t a judgement of our talent or abilities, it was just a reflection of someone else’s preferences.”

These comparisons that I’ve been struggling with are the same thing! In one situation, God might be looking for a sweet bagel, and so he might choose her chocolate chip bagel-ness. That doesn’t mean I’m an inferior bagel. It just means he the sweet bagel was better for the situation than the sour one (I wanna be a cranberry bagel). But, by the same token, sometime later he might want a sour bagel – in which case I would fit the bill better than her. Not because I’m better, but because He needed a cranberry bagel. I could go on and on, but the basic fact is that we’re all different and we all need to be ourselves, because there will always be a task that only we can do or a strength that when needed only we have or even a weakness that is exclusively ours. It would be like comparing a squirrel and a stingray – why would you ever compare them? You don’t judge a stingray on it’s ability to climb trees, or a squirrel on it’s ability to glide smoothly through the water.

She has a group of friends.

I have a best friend who’s so close my whole family calls her my sister/their daughter/their granddaughter.

She’s called upon to lead a lot.

I know how to follow because if I led I’d probably mess up and actually don’t want the job at all.

She’s way ahead of you.

You need to be back further to help out someone else.

She’s smart.

You have a big heart.

She’s confident, but bossy.

You cringe but are careful not to hurt those around you.

In conclusion…sorry this took so long. That’s all, Bye.

 

Pshh! I’m kidding! Kinda. It’s easy to compare ourselves, but we all need to be different. We don’t want to equal up, because if we did we’d lose those specific strengths that we’ll need for where we’ll be. Don’t compare the squirrel to the stingray. It doesn’t work like that. Adios for real this time!

P.S. Go check out Stephanie May Wilson at http://stephaniemaywilson.com/ – she’s an amazing Christian writer who has lots of good stuff to say, and her emails feel like sitting down with a friend over a cup of coffee. Okay, ciao!

Worry, Focus, and Other’s Worry

Well. I was gonna write about something else, but then something happened to derail that. Which is why I’m writing about worry, because that affected me most imminently and directly. So, let’s get to it!

My family has been having monetary struggles. I’ve been praying about it along with some other stuff, but I got kind of thrown off tonight. Three things I try to pray for fairly regularly is healing for my brother (he’s special needs, think baby in a fifteen-year-old body with a fifteen-year-olds strength and lots of health issues), healing for a friend (she has a chronic illness), and support for my family as they deal with my brother and money and anything and everything else (especially since my brother has/will go through several surgeries recently). Today, something happened (I won’t say what) that put a good strain on us. It included another cost and a lot of strain, especially on my dad. And when dad’s not happy, no one is. And I was sitting in the house, worrying and praying.

We hear it so often. “Don’t worry,” they say, “the Bible says that God will take care of you.” It’s heard so often I usually ignore it. I haven’t had to deal much with struggles along those lines, so that didn’t help it sink in. But today, I looked up the verses about worry. I know all the blabber, but I needed to be able to calm down and let the Bible help me give that worry to God. Situations like what happened are some of the worst for me; it’s when I most need alone time to go and think and calm down and I can’t because I have to take some of the burden from my parents. It’s when I’m so worried that I have a hard time breathing and kinda want to cry and I can’t because I don’t cry in front of others if I can help it. So, when I was dismissed to go watch the food, I looked up those verses on my phone. I won’t spout all the stuff you’ve heard before. If you want help with worrying, don’t listen to a person, just read the verses yourself. The Bible holds power humans just don’t.

This whole situation, however, also had me thinking about focus. I was worried, but my first thought was to pray, and then I kept praying. I was trying to focus not on the problem, but on who could fix it. That also sounds somewhat cliché, which I’m not a fan of, but it’s the truth. When I get worried about something, the first thing I need to do is pray. God says pray about everything, so it goes double to pray when there’s trouble. Once we focus on God – and when we dwell in Him – our troubles start being solved. Generally because God either solves them or provides a way or wisdom to solve them. So while money is still an issue for my family, I will continue to pray about it.

The last thing is about other’s worry, not my own. I mentioned above that the situation was one where I had to stay to help my parents. I feel pressure in these sorts of situations, but the pressure that my parents feel must be so much worse. “I am just really struggling”. They don’t say it often, but that often describes some point in their daily lives where everything is just coming down and they are so. worn. out. I worry, but I am able to deal with it. They can confide in each other, but they don’t fully – or even mostly – confide in either myself or others. I get bits and pieces, and others get bits and pieces. But my parents largely bear their burden alone. And even so, we’re lucky – we have a house, and food, and medical care. We have great friends. My friend, the one I call a sister, gets my brother off of the bus and helps my parents out fairly regularly. She’s also usually game to help watch the boys (I also have a six year old brother called Mr. Energy) and actually enjoys cleaning, which she will also do. She bails us out often. Our family, though they live a ways away (the nearest family member is 45 min away), also helps out a ton. We are so blessed, but how can my parents get away from the wear and tear of everyday life? They get a full day off usually only once a year, on their anniversary. I worry about their worry!

Which leads me to my main thought for the day. I pray about my parents. I pray about their stress, their worry, their health. I pray about their faith. I pray for my brother – I know how hard it is to deal with my parents when they’re majorly stressed. I pray, because God is the only way they can survive day-to-day. I can’t support my parents as much as I’d like to. They won’t let me, and quite honestly that level of commitment scares me. To have to put someone else’s needs before your own and let them dictate every second of your daily life…my parents can’t even just drop my brother off with someone and take a break because of his needs. How often do we pray for the people close to us? How often do we pray for people we aren’t even sure need it? How often do we pray for people who struggle under a daily burden? That’s a big one – so often we see the burden but don’t pray for it because it’s a part of daily life. I wonder – who else is praying for my parents? Who else is praying for their strength and serenity? Who else is praying for their life in general? What about you? Who else can you pray for? Worry is elusive. It tries to creep up on us quickly. Sometimes it’s like a smack in the face, sometimes it’s like a tickle or an itch you can’t scratch. The Bible tells us to take one day at a time. Foresight is important, but we are supposed to dwell in today. Overcome today’s obstacle, and pray for other’s. I very easily feel others pain, but that should just mean that I pray more. What about you?