Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Warning Labels

WARNING: unstable and potentially crazy..... approach at your own risk.   

That is SO me.  I saved that picture a long time ago because I related to it...and because it made me chuckle.  The fact that I relate to it probably speaks volumes about me.   

But.....plain ole observation lets me know I'm not alone in this particular brand of craziness.  You know when someone compliments you and a  simple "thank you" would suffice but you answer with some weirdness that, in your mind, makes them wonder why they complimented you in the first place? What is that??? 

I think for many of us, there are two kinds of compliments....good compliments..... like the one Jack Nicholson gave Helen Hunt in As Good As it Gets when he told her, "You make me want to be a better man."….and there are the scary compliments such as a younger mom looking to you and saying, "You are such a good mom."   

Good compliments are something we can totally own and feel we could repeat if necessary and will probably be expected to repeat in the future.  For example: "Robin, those chocolate oatmeal cookies you made were awesome!"  To that I can respond confidently and appropriately with something like, "Thank you...So glad you enjoyed them!"  See....a totally appropriate, NOT crazy response.  

Then there are scary compliments such as, "You are doing such a good job with your boys."  That's when I go all crazy, deer in the headlights with my responses....."Yeah, well, you should've heard me tell my son the other day that he was being an a!$".  True story by the way.  Not one of my finer moments.  I mean.....he was.....but, still....when you are continuously trying to teach your kids not to let any unwholesome talk come out of their mouths, to control their tempers, etc., and then you get so unBELIEVably frustrated that you set a fine example by blowing a gasket yourself and .....Well, I'm pretty sure it knocked me out of the running for my "Mom of the Year" award and I was totally beyond the state of "momniscience".  (Crazy people also tend to make up words.)  If you'd like to know more about this mythical term....please see a previous post, Momniscience,, where I addressed this along with the illusive, beyond our grasp, "Mom of the Year" award.  

ANYWAY....Why on earth would a comment or, more specifically, a compliment cause such a reaction in us? Because those observations can often times be either meant, or at least perceived as, labels.  I don't know about you but, I am weird about what labels I take on.  With labels, there are expectations.   Those can have an almost paralytic effect in our lives.  It is entirely possible that the reason we have a hard time accepting those things that are true about us...those labels... is because once we do, it further defines us or solidifies some things about us and sometimes we'd rather stay....shall we say...."fluid".  You and I both know that once we accept certain labels, certain things become expected of us.....or we expect certain things from ourselves.  Oh the pressure!!!   (You know,  on second thought, I'm starting to think we're all just a bit crazy and that is the root of it all.)  

If they think we have mastered some area......there's so much more room for disappointment.  If they haven't labeled us in that area yet....then there's room to surprise and impress others with no pressure or expectation.  Take our bodies for example.  That's certainly an area of insecurity for many of us.  If people are quick to compliment you on your weight loss or your level of fitness, while on one hand it's always nice to hear, does it make you wonder if you gain 5 pounds or feel particularly out of shape some days if they're noticing or critiquing that, too..... and you've slipped a few notches? 

I know some of you can relate because I've noticed something lately.  Well.....I've always noticed it but I'm more and more aware of it in myself and in others, especially women.  We have a hard time believing the positives about ourselves.....our strengths, attributes, talents, whatever.....even things that should be obvious because..... 

I'll give you a prime example.  As most of you know, I ran the LA Marathon earlier this year in March.  If you know me or saw my blog posts over the last year, you know that I was brand new to running.  (If you'd like further explanation on why someone who's never ran in her life would sign up to run a marathon - please see my post titled, Magic Shoes.) During training, I had a few people around town or the ballpark compliment me on my choice of running shoes and then ask me excitedly, "Are you a runner?" Bear in mind, I was already well into my training and had already run a couple of half marathon distances and beyond. I mean, I had to LEARN to run and work up to a 5K distance in order to train for the marathon.  Still, I couldn't reply with a smile and a simple, "Yes, I am". No, my reply went a little something more like this, "Well, not really, I'm trying to be...I'm new to it...we'll see how it goes."   What was so wrong with stating the obvious? "Yes....I am".  The problem was that I was thinking how hard it still was for me some days....not how far I had come since my first week of training.  Boy, do I have that feeling still as a mom, a wife, and well...pretty much every role I've assumed.  

We may not see ourselves as being negative.  SOME of us may call ourselves realists....oh and here's a good one..humble....and SOME of the time that may be true.  Plenty of us see the good in others, just not ourselves.  There are also plenty of people who see themselves and the world around them with rose colored glasses and that's great! (Those people are a hoot, aren't they?!! Love them!) I'm just not finding that to be the majority of us, most of the time.  I do find that much of the time, we're not even aware that it is, in fact, negativity that we're focused on.  

Here's what I think may be happening subconsciously:  As moms, wives, sisters, friends, Christians....We all easily understand why we feel hurt or misunderstood or take offense to being labeled things like.... lazy, judgmental, out of shape, unloving, unorganized, selfish, etc. There's a plethora of negative feedback everywhere we turn.  What's odd is that if we take our same roles as women and start accepting positive feedback.... pressure sometimes builds. The thing about this pressure is that, sure, people place expectations on us when they understand us to have assumed some particular role.  However, it's the pressure we place on ourselves and the disbelief in our hearts that causes us the greatest stress.  For some reason, we think we are suppose to get it ALL right 100% of the time, be all things to all people, and never slip at anything.   What happens if we mess up as a "good" mom, an "amazing" wife, an "awesome" friend.....Do our labels get painfully ripped off? What happens if we mess up as a follower of Christ...Can we not call ourselves Christians anymore? What happens if we take 6 months off from writing....Can we never consider ourselves as writers again? What happens if we don't land the big promotion....Does that actually demote us? What happens if we don't have time to work on our physique like use to.....does that mean we can't be beautiful? 

With so much external input and so much dialogue going on in our own heads, what's a girl to do?
Stop it.  Just stop it.  STOP the craziness. It is absurd and completely false to think that we are going to be all that others expect us to be all of the time. It is even more absurd to think we are going to be what WE really want to be all of the time.  We all want to be good moms, wives, friends, servants, etc.  However, with all the voices, we must have a filter.  

Here's mine:

In the middle of Luke chapter 1, we find the account of a young Mary being visited by an angel and given unbelievable news that she is the one who will carry "the Son of the Most High" (v. 32)  Talk about a compliment.  I probably would've responded with an eloquent,  "Say WHAT?" However, she believed it and simply asked how it was going to happen (v. 34).  

Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, who's husband also received an unbelievable message from an angel and who herself had experienced a rather miraculous conception.  Elizabeth was thrilled to see Mary and goes on and on about it then tells her "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." (v. 45) Elizabeth appreciated her faith. See, Elizabeth's husband, Zechariah, answered (as I would have) in a more unbelieving manner and because of his response, he was made mute until his son's birth (v. 18-20). 

Mary goes right on believing what the angel said would take place and praising God both for both the honor He bestowed upon her personally and for simply being the great and merciful God that He is.  

Why am I telling you about Mary? Because Mary was all in with God.  Neither her identity nor her confidence was wrapped up in what others thought of her or whether she felt equipped for the role she'd be assuming.  If either of those things were in her mind, she would have hesitated...just as Zechariah did.  But, she didn't hesitate.  God said it and she believed it.   She didn't start stammering about not being good mom material or start listing her failures or short comings.  Those things may have popped into her head but she must have quickly filtered them because she simply said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; Let it be to me according to your word." (v. 38)  That spoke volumes about Mary.  

If we know God and His Word and BELIEVE Him, then we can filter out lies and misconceptions in the things we see, hear, read, etc. and see others, ourselves, and our God much more clearly.  When we can do that, we can put an end to the enemy's chatter that keeps us from fully accepting.the labels that are true about us.  We can begin collaborating with God to change negative ones and to put the positive ones to use in the world around us for His Glory. For those of us who have accepted Christ, God has applied His own set of labels: 
Our enemy does not want us accepting our labels and collaborating with God. He knows that when we do, he'll have to make up a whole new batch of labels.  Instead of "unstable" they will say:

SPIRIT FILLED: approach at your own risk

Side note - Notice, God's labels don't include the word, "perfect".  
With that in mind, what labels are you having trouble owning right now?

Please share in the comments below and feel free to include pictures of your own "filters"!

P.S. Here are some more funnies I've saved over time either because I identified with them or because they were just too funny not to save.  These probably speak volumes about me, also, but....I don't care what they say!:)


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