My relationship at times becomes a mirror; a mirror in which I see myself and my flaws highlighted; highlighted in painstakingly crucial detail. I try to see this as a good thing even though really, I am already well aware (for the most part!) of my imperfections and errors. But this relationship has been challenging me to address these issues more seriously and intentionally then I have been doing lately.
Somehow, this hurts. It hurts to hear my s.o. lay out my junk so clearly. It doesn’t matter that it is done out of love. It is still super sucky. My theories for why it hurts so much (a) I am overly sensitive. (b) I occasionally still struggle with insecurity. (c) I feel misunderstood.
So why so sensitive? Well, partially because of how I’ve been critiqued personally in the past. In me, there yet resides a groundless (yet real) fear that the mean, thoughtless things people have said to and about me in the past are true. This would imply I really am stupid, mean, crazy, thoughtless, idiotic, fat, out of control, weak, pushover, etc.. Despite all the healing and assurance God has given me that speaks well to the contrary, sometimes the memories of these words (and events that happened that make them appear to be true) still sting. Those wounds are not fully scabbed over yet.
(b) Sense of insecurity. This of course is connected to oversensitivity. I am still haunted at times by the cruel words that have been spoken to me by one family member in particular. So yes, there is this fear that she might have a point and that I am irreversibly screwed and f***** up (again, I KNOW this is not true. Still, it doesn’t change the feelings of fear and pain that hit whenever I remember these words. I have tried to forget them but some things, my inconsistent memory won’t let go).
(c) Feeling misunderstood. In me there is an occasional hurt that comes from wondering if people think I really do things out of acrimony, meanness, stupidity, etc. This pain and fear of being misunderstood I still struggle to lay at the foot of the cross every day, as well as the defensiveness. How sad to know that that people can and will never fully understand why I made certain decisions, why I’ve said and done certain things. The good thing, my nearest and dearest know me well (well, as well as anyone could, haha) and love and try to understand me as best as they can. The other good thing is that people are far more interested and involved in their own lives and personal issues then mine. HAH.
Unfortunately, I’ve reacted defensively when confronted with what I’ve done wrong. When faced with conflict or any other kind of uncomfortable situation, I tend to either avoid or become defensive, neither of which are ideal.
So, I googled ‘defensiveness’ just for the definition and found some articles on this issue that do a way better job then I could with laying out the issue. The first two:
And coming from the book A Mind of its Own: “The brain’s power is confirmed and touted every day in new studies and research. And yet we tend to take our brains for granted, without suspecting that those masses of hard-working neurons might not always be working for us. Cordelia Fine introduces us to a brain we might not want to meet, a brain with a mind of its own. She illustrates the brain’s tendency toward self-delusion as she explores how the mind defends and glorifies the ego by twisting and warping our perceptions. Our brains employ a slew of inborn mind-bugs and prejudices, from hindsight bias to unrealistic optimism, from moral excuse-making to wishful thinking―all designed to prevent us from seeing the truth about the world and the people around us, and about ourselves.”
Again, these articles and even the quote, do not include any information that was particularly new to me. However, they did an excellent job of reminding me how we as humans tend to think that in the “face of pain or conflict, what’s most important is that we survive as the one who is justified and right. Fundamentally, we do not view pain as something that is safe to engage with or that can lead to growth or healing. Instead, we see pain as something to survive and defeat.” And how, “When someone tells us that we caused them pain, we get angry at them. Often, the more hurt they are, the more hurtful and vicious we are in response. It is strange behavior really. And yet, it is not so strange when we consider that we have been conditioned to believe that who we are is our self-story, the carefully constructed version of me that we have assimilated over a lifetime. And simultaneously, we are conditioned to believe that our self can be altered, harmed and ultimately annihilated by another’s experience of us, particularly when that experience is inconsistent with our self-story. No wonder we are so afraid and defensive when conflict arises! While our conditioning has taught us that who we are is remarkably fragile, in truth, who we are is fiercer than anything we know” (article 1).
When I apply this to my personal story, and who I think I am, I see how through my encounter with God last year, I chose to erase the past years that had spelled out so many lies about my identity. Instead, I chose to believe that I am new, fully forgiven, cleansed, redeemed and set free. My self can no longer be irreversibly harmed by another. Yet no way has this been a signed and easy done deal. The devil has used many things to try to make me fall back into believing the old lies. He used to the words of someone I love and trust more then anyone else and yet doesn’t fully believe my story. He used my feelings of loneliness, sorrow, sense of not belonging and feeling misunderstood and not heard. He used the sense of confusion that came when I thought I had heard and understood God’s voice with something major, and ended up being completely mistaken. He used my foolish mistakes this year; how my loneliness and desire for connectivity brought me to a dangerous place where I was hurt and traumatized all over again.
So in conclusion, my s.o. has played a hugely significant role in my growth process during this time. He has been a huge support and indirectly reminds me how if we are going to continue experiencing significant success and maturity as a couple, I really have to put in 110% of my personal effort towards growth in these weak areas of mine. The good thing is, I really want to and not just for us, but for God, and myself. It doesn’t make it any easier though. Learning how to communicate well is hard for me. How fragile and small I still seem to myself at times. And how I HATE feeling misunderstood! But it is ok. These are more growing pains and I will EMBRACE them and NOT BE AFRAID. Not today, not tomorrow, not in the days to come.
I believe in the final paragraph of article 1: “It is counter-intuitive really… the less we defend our well-being, the more well we feel. When we stop trying to protect me (at last) me feels safe and without the need for protection. We are conditioned to believe that strength means coming out on top and winning the fight. But in fact, real strength means having the courage to put our swords and shields down, and to risk being open and un-defended. When we truly listen to another, without our self-story in the way, we not only offer the greatest gift one can offer to another human being, but we get to jettison the shackles of this fragile identity and realize our true being… that under all the defending, who we are is love itself, which is indestructible, and so fierce as to need no defense at all.”
The love and goodness in me is from God, and He reminds me of my true potential in Him every day. He created me for His pleasure and glory and is showing me bit by bit what that looks like in the practical now. It IS hard, it is dying to self ALL THE TIME, ALWAYS picking up your cross and following Him…And He gives me the strength and will and desire to do so. It is all Him; I can take credit for nothing; every good gift comes from Him and every half decent thing I’ve ever had in my life is from Him. And yes, He allowed the evil to occur, as it continues to occur everywhere, every moment of every day, but He also is using that for good as well. It still sucks and I feel pain and anger and even fear, whenever I think about it. But it’s ok. God knows where I am at on this journey, and He continues to inspire me to continue on, doing things well, in Him.