12/12/2012

Quietly Confident*

Posted in Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , at 7:19 am by The Water Bearer

Dad

The third anniversary of my Dad’s passing is here, He is missed enormously.

Has it really been 3 whole years since I looked into your eyes? Really!?!?…..

Many things stand out to me when I reflect on who my Dad was, numerous good things, many difficult ones, some sad.

Today I am thinking of something I feel a pull to dig deeper into and treasure up into my heart, so I may emulate it in my own life.  I am naturally a personality hungry for love and acceptance. Many of us are, yet not only hungry, starving even. I have tried to expect it, demand it, beg for it, manipulate it, wait for it and eventually … appreciate it.

This week I had an epiphany, I realised that for as long as I can remember I have felt a pressure upon me to compromise my own opinions and perspectives in order to avoid conflict. As if, to be loved and accepted, to enjoy the company of ‘everyone’, then I must alter my beliefs to keep the peace.

Please understand that I am pretty strong willed and rarely accommodate this change, I don’t back down or let people walk over me. However, I have let the feeling of this lack of acceptance seep deep into my convictions. I second guess myself often, or desperately try to justify and explain, and I search for ways to cope with forcefully opposing views. I find myself either giving in to the pressure over time, or putting up huge walls, or copying some behaviours of others, behaviours that are not ‘mine’, in order to feel I have something in common with them, something that might connect us.

When I was young, doing drugs, drinking and smoking eased the pressure off my reluctance to enter into a sexual relationship, because everyone else was doing ‘it’. I could still engage with my peers that way, without being rejected for being too different. Wanting to be a singer and actress, or a lawyer, was too far from what my peers envisioned for their lives, so I went into hospitality and became an expert at pouring a beer and carrying a tray. Being a Christian came with strange looks and the ‘Goody Two-shoes’ label, so I began dressing in an overly Gothic style and swearing like a sailor.

Do you see the pattern??

I was running around trying everything everyone else was doing, because I had no idea how to be strong and happy enough to just be me, and be different. I needed others to like me for being anything else, anything acceptable. Problem is…What is ‘acceptable’ can change with each new face you greet. It is an impossible bar to reach.

There is a need to be quietly confident in our beliefs, so that we don’t feel threatened when they are challenged.

I am not very good at this, because as the years have passed I have allowed this pressure to cause me to become very defensive of the person I am, the person closest to my ‘true’ self, without the influences of opposing opinions. Yet, I am on guard, certain that previous offenders will threaten my lines of certainty. It makes me anxious and I react badly, lose my composure, and therefore treat these offenders aggressively. The worst part is that these are people I care for, and also if I begin to fire off defensively, innocent people may get hit with friendly fire in the process or aftermath. I feel very far from quietly confident in these moments.

As far back as I can remember, my Dad didn’t compromise his beliefs for anyone except God. He held up his opinions against the word of God and against his relationship with God, and allowed God to challenge him and not the acceptance of people. He stood strong in his convictions against all who tried to manipulate him to change. This affected his family life and his social life to the extent where he spent many many years completely alone, with God. It wasn’t until the last decade of his life when he finally found a bunch of people who accepted him and his beliefs so that he could finally relax and enjoy the company of others.

So in order to still have people in our lives and achieve quiet confidence, we need to develop a loving way to protect our boundaries, without allowing the onslaught of attack and opposition to send us into a tizzy of defensiveness. Not everyone will fall into the category of peacefully agreeing to disagree. Some will always feel that an opposing view needs to be challenged and this can be extremely vexatious to the spirit.

Like Dad, I have begun avoiding spending time with people who can’t help but confront and try to move my boundaries. Lately there are much less times that I feel this pressure, than when I do. I have found my own bunch of people to be comfortable being myself with, who I can disagree with, without getting defensive, and not feel the slightest need to change in order to suit them, because I know they love and accept me regardless of our differing views. I don’t have to defend my boundaries, I don’t feel anxiety in their company. I can relax and be me and it’s all good.

I am going to keep working hard on being quietly confident, and lovingly protect my boundaries with those who I feel anxious around, without the overly defensive reactions. I will definitely need all of your prayers on this one, it’s a biggy!

bent in prayer

Advertisements

27/06/2012

When will we feel ‘Good Enough’?

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:06 am by The Water Bearer

So often many of us want to crawl into a hole when faced with the reality that we aren’t perfect. There are so many more complex points I could write on this topic, but in this post I will just try to touch on a few basics. There is a cloudy grey area between being perfect and being good enough, and many of us feel if we fall short of perfection we must not be good enough.  Sure we tell ourselves over and over again the cliche that “Nobody’s Perfect”, we try to convince ourselves that we are ok with that, but it only seems to distract us for a moment and before long we are back wondering how we can feel good enough for longer?

Self-indulgence seems the most common way to distract ourselves for longer, things like overeating, retail therapy, casual sex, drinking, drugs, gambling, any form of a good time that helps us enjoy ourselves and takes our minds away from the disappointment of feeling like a failure. Only problem is all these can leave us with feelings of regret when we either drink too much, spend too much, eat too much, or sleep with someone we wish we hadn’t, making worse the feeling inside that we were trying to deal with in the first place. Other non-destructive ways are also attempted, like being overly ‘good’, perhaps we go on health kicks, take up a new hobby or volunteer for the school P&C, church craft stalls, food vans, fundraising etc. Obviously these are fabulous gestures when coming from the heart for the right reasons, but when they are to distract us from that feeling of still not being good enough we often find the feeling is still there not long after we hang up the Good Samaritan shoes.

I can relate to this in so many ways, in my own private thoughts I always knew what was expected of me, and that it was out of my reach. I had all these desires which I knew I wasn’t meant to have, I too dealt with my emotional thoughts in ways I knew were bad for me. I craved a brief moment of relief, where I could feel good enough already. I believed I knew what was ‘right’, but no matter how hard I tried, I still managed to find myself doing the wrong thing.

Strangely enough, I felt the exact opposite when I compared myself to those around me. If my ‘goodness’ was challenged by anyone, I could quickly dispute their claims by defending and justifying my actions, and pointing out how much worse they were than me. If I ever saw someone do anything ‘wrong’ I stored it in my memory bank, ready to remind them if ever my virtue was challenged.

I teetered between these two states for a number of years, unaware of what I was actually doing. I believe this battle is going on inside many people, and I feel the urge to tell you all that it is a sneaky, deceptive trap.

I was discussing this topic with my dear Sister recently; we were deep in the thick of analysing the elements of right and wrong, guilt and innocence, sin and forgiveness, among other things. I was recalling what our Dad had said to me in my early twenties; those words of his which had helped me see the truth about myself.

He helped me identify the lies I had believed all my life. Do these sound familiar to anyone?

*Good intentions are good excuses for undesirable behaviour;  –

Dad showed me that doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is still the wrong thing (doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is just as bad) Focusing on all the good things we do often, (good deeds, favours, gift giving, praying, loving gestures, hard work, fortitude through suffering etc) must make up for our impatience, our self-importance, bad temper, self-indulgence and emotional tantrums. Dad helped me accept that focusing on the good I saw in me distracted me from owning up to my true flaws, while focusing on the bad in others reinforced the belief that I was good and didn’t need to change.

*If we can convince those around us that we are good enough, and convince ourselves that we are good enough, then that must mean God thinks we are good enough too, right?

Dad showed me that God would in fact rather us be low in reputation, humble and even persecuted by man for His names sake. (He can certainly make us thought of highly by others, but only when it means nothing to us anymore.) In my understanding He does not encourage self-importance. Ordinary Man – Extraordinary God!

*We also fall for that age old trick of building our knowledge, and relying on our own understanding of right and wrong, to help us be more on to it.

Dad reminded me of the tree which Eve ate the fruit from, the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’. Isn’t that the same thing we are doing in this instance? Trying to know what God knows, rather than simply depending on Him?

If we look closely we can see that all these lies aim to convince us to lift ourselves up, in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, as apposed to lifting up God with honour. If we lift ourselves up, trying to meet God in His righteousness, we only get self-righteousness and we make God smaller in our minds.

Obadiah 1:3 says The pride of our hearts deceives us.”

I was so deceived! I thought I deserved forgiveness for my sins because they weren’t ‘that bad’, and I was making up for it in other ways (Saved by works!), yet I came to see that I could only receive forgiveness when my heart became ashamed and was met with Grace. My repentance came by admitting that my heart is prideful, selfish and conceited. I acknowledged my sinful nature and begged for God to understand that I could now see how wrong I was. I came to see that we are all capable of good deeds and bad, and it struck me that if I still found myself doing things I swore I never would, even though I thought I knew what was right, so others must do also. God allowed me to stumble over my own sin so that I would learn to depend on Him for His strength and His righteousness.

By showing Him my willingness to suffer the pain of being unworthy of forgiveness, I began to earn that very forgiveness.

Let me ask you this….

If someone does wrong by us and comes to us demanding we forgive them because they have a good explanation and because they can list a number of ways we were at fault as well. Don’t we feel that they aren’t truly sorry, and will probably just go ahead and do the same thing again in the future? We would be unwilling to forgive and trust them completely, wouldn’t we?

Yet if someone comes to us admitting how wrong they were, bowing their head in shame and saying they understand if we don’t forgive them, stating that they don’t even deserve forgiveness, they just want us to know how very sorry they are for hurting us. Then wouldn’t we feel more inclined to forgive them and allow them to earn back our trust?

Perhaps we could keep these obvious differences in mind when considering how we approach God when looking to receive forgiveness?

“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12)

If someone hurts us or does us wrong and is truly remorseful we need to show forgiveness, because no matter what they have done, we need to remember that it is possible for us to do that very same thing if similar circumstances and weakness occurs in us. By no means am I suggesting we should put ourselves into situations where we allow them to continue to hurt us!  (True change must be evident and trust rebuilt when sharing our vulnerabilities. Another post for another day!) I am suggesting accepting their apology and letting go of the bitterness we feel toward them for their action. If they don’t apologise or acknowledge their faults, then we can assume that they can’t see it or admit it to themselves, just like we couldn’t in our own lack of self-awareness. Even though it is difficult, we can then offer an element of forgiveness and let go of any grudges, because as Jesus said on the cross “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

We are able to be forgiven because of God’s mercy and grace, and because of what Jesus did at Calvary. By acknowledging this we make ourselves tiny in our own eyes and God becomes HUGE! As a fellow blogger The Peaceful Wife put it, ‘My picture of God before was so wimpy and small. I had to see He was big and I was tiny’.  So very true, and I like having a BIG GOD!

Here I was trying to prove how good I was, yet as soon as I admitted how truly wrong I was, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It invited God into my situation and I found Him keeping me from doing things, one by one, that I had been trying not to for so long on my own. I found that many of the things I thought mattered actually didn’t matter at all, I could be released from self-condemnation because of feeling God’s love, and I came to experience genuine moments of inner peace. I still have to keep my heart guarded to discern the pride which tries to creep back in each day, trying to deceive me into covering my sin. Yet I now find it much easier to see myself clearly, by keeping my heart softened to His voice and truth, and try to confess in the instant of awareness.

When we truly repent and run away from pride, we can rejoice in feeling the freedom it brings. Feeling God’s forgiveness, His help, His love, and finally feeling FREE to be GOOD ENOUGH. AMEN!

%d bloggers like this: