**I started writing this morning thinking that I was writing about a completely different topic but this was where God took it so I hope somebody finds it helpful.**
What. The. Hell?!?! Are you serious right now? This was the questioning in my head as my friend relayed the scathing conversation that took place about me behind my back between some “friends” a few years back. My skin flushed and prickled as I clawed at the neckline of my sweater, scratching my red, itchy skin as I did so. “Why is the heat turned up so high in here? I’m sweating!” was all I could say in response to this heart-breaking news. I felt betrayed and I was angry…and my response to anger is usually tears and I didn’t want that so I was going to distract myself in any way that I could for the time being. I would unpack this and deal with it later. For now, pizza…lots of pizza…and chocolate…because I could always count on eating my emotion…my delicious emotions.
I did work through it all later. God and I did some difficult work together on this one and came to a conclusion that I really didn’t like: While I am responsible for how I make people feel, I am not responsible to own their opinions and feelings…even their opinions or feelings toward me. Ugh! The people-pleaser side of me really, REALLY did not like that. I recall talking with God and trying to negotiate with him: “Now, come on…if the opinion is about me, I should have some say in it shouldn’t I? I mean, when people have me pegged completely wrong, there’s got to be a smooth, non-messy kind of way to make them see that I really mean well but that I am just a bumbler who screws up a lot…right?” The answer I got from God was “How often do I force the truth of who I am on those I love?” *Unhh!* (In case you don’t know that sound, it’s what it sounds like when air leaves your mouth really fast because you got hit in the gut unexpectedly.)
So, despite my desire to “fix” things (and maybe also the desire to call people out on their shi-…uh…on being intentionally unkind to me) and after talking it through with some friends, I decided to release it. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt me and it doesn’t mean that it didn’t matter, but it does mean that I was willing to let God be in control of it…and by doing that, my anger and resentment over it didn’t control me anymore. **Post note: one of the two ladies involved in the conversation very humbly approached me on her own a couple of years later and cleared things up (at least her side of things) and we have become quite good friends now…she has actually become a consistent source of Godly counsel, wisdom, and encouragement…I’m pretty glad I didn’t just go in guns blazing like I felt justified in doing.**
What is my point? Glad you asked! I guess there are several: First, I think that how we make people feel matters (I know, I’ve said that before…I’m a broken record here…I can’t tell you a single thing I learned in middle school but I can tell you in excruciating detail how I felt…feelings last…how we make people feel does matter.) Also, while how we make them feel is important, we can not own their opinions and feelings for them…even if the opinions are about us. Finally, I would say that if the weight of all of this gets too heavy for you like it does for me at times, just remember that all God is asking you to do right now is to be obedient right now. He’s not asking you to change the whole world and everything in it at this moment. What does obedience look like right now? For me, sometimes it means speaking up…sometimes it means holding my tongue.
So how are you doing with this? Do you think at all about how your words or actions affect other people? If you do think about this, are you able to keep it in balance or do you take it to far and try to own their feelings and opinions? How can you create healthy boundaries for yourself so that you are invested in those you love but not so deeply invested that you find yourself wresting ownership away from them. Finally, what does obedience look like for you right here right now? Not your five year plan…not your huge long-term ministry goals…today! What would obedience to God look like for you today?
My prayer today is that we would be so consumed with serving God and serving others that our reputations would take care of themselves. I’m praying that we invest deeply and love well. Much love friends,