I have heard it said quite often, “freedom isn’t free”. That is such a true statement. Freedom comes at a cost. The ultimate cost of freedom is the shedding of innocent blood. But the cost could also be time, money, loss, loneliness or rejection. I’ve seen this play out in my own life.
Most of my life I have struggled with people pleasing. People pleasing to the point of jeopardizing my own morals and values in order to make other people happy or like me and to keep the peace. Below I have listed the top scenarios that had a strong hold on my life:
I said yes when I really wanted to say no.
When my feelings were hurt, I wouldn’t share those feelings but instead stuffed them deep down instead. I just wanted to be liked, even by the person hurting me.
I had no boundaries.
I was so scared of being rejected I would remain quiet and not speak up about anything.
I craved people’s approval.
I really thought these behaviors were normal and this was just “who I was”. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s and a situation occurred that would change my life forever. Someone said some mean and hurtful things to me. As I pondered this interaction and days had gone by, I knew I needed to speak up and share my feelings. I knew if I did speak up, the cost would be complete rejection. At this point in my life I was ready to pay that price. Little did I know then what that cost truly meant.
I did speak up and I did share my feelings and just as I thought I was rejected and told to have a nice life. I was devastated to say the least. I was miserable and I found myself crying all the time. I had outbursts of anger and was filled with guilt, shame and self-loathing. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. After a couple of months went by I decided to seek out counselling. It took me 2 years, once a week to process this pain. I had no idea I put so much value in other people’s opinion of me. I had no idea who I really was.
During those 2 years I paid the price. Remember, freedom isn’t free. I paid the price of time, money, loss, loneliness and rejection. I was ready to be free. To be free of the chains that bound me to other people. To be free of the fear of rejection. During this process I
Shared my feelings for the first time.
I read tons of books on co-dependency.
I started attending church and a small group and began serving.
I cried, A LOT!
I met Jesus, for the first time!
I learned that my identity was in Christ and not in other people. I also learned that He loved me unconditionally and would never leave me. I never experienced this before.
This process was one of the most gut-wrenching experiences I have ever gone through. I wrestled with myself, my husband and God. I can’t wait to share one day with you my journey with my husband during this ordeal.
It felt like everything was unraveling and it actually was! The chains that bound me so tightly and squeezing the life out of me were starting to become loose. I thought I was comfortable in those chains but I was not. They were suffocating me.
That 2 year process was just the beginning. It was the start of an amazing journey with God. I was introduced to the Christian 12 steps which now help me to maintain my freedom from people pleasing on a daily basis. I now have the tools I need to live one day at a time in healthy relationships.
I still struggle with people pleasing tendencies but I use the tools I have learned throughout this journey.
I pray and journal.
I check-in with an accountability partner.
I serve and share my story with those struggling with the same issues.
I live my life one day at a time, looking to Jesus for His approval first and foremost.
I can truly say that I am thankful that I was willing to pay the price for this freedom. I am finally free from the bondage of people pleasing and I am free to serve God with my whole heart!
When I think of the word “free”, I think of being completely unhindered, not held back by anything. “Free” to me is like an animal in the wild, who can do what it is created to do, be who it is created to be. Some of the options of definitions of the word “free” as found in dictionary.com are:
“Exempt from external authority, interference, restriction, etc, as a person or one’s will, thought, choice, action, etc.”“Clear of obstructions or obstacles”“Released from something that specifically controls, restrains, burdens, etc.”
When I was a little kid, I wouldn’t have said I was a fearful child. But I did choose the route of safety quite often. I did kind of “hide” behind being the “good girl” and choosing to do things that people expected me to do. As I got older, I continued to work hard at “fitting in” and “doing well” at most every group or activity I participated in (except softball - my dad coached my team, and I played out of obligation, but I was a horrible softball player). I got good grades, I got along with most everyone, and I used my gift of creativity to make beautiful things, many gifts for people and nice pictures to hang on the walls.
I guess choosing to study art in college was a bit of a veer away from “safety”. It wasn’t a field with guaranteed employment or success. The world of art students was a zone of people who had a wide range of “personalities”. They could be extremely loose and expressive and somewhat “strange” in that they had no inhibitions about how unique and unusual their artistic expressions were, perhaps doing “color studies” in abstraction. On the other end of the spectrum, there were the design students who worked in formulas and perfection in their type of artwork, yet still using the well-honed talents placed within them. I was an insecure art student, usually holding back from risk-taking, and very often comparing myself to both camps - the super-expressive and the super-refined, and never quite “fitting in”.
I think I was a bit “afraid” of the artist within me. I wasn’t sure how to let her out, let her just experiment, try things, take the risk of failing and also the risk of succeeding. I was unsure of how people would receive me, if I made things that didn’t represent the “me” I had always put out there. If I made a tree painting that was a purple tree with arms and legs, would people who knew me want me to be examined by the nearest psycho-analyst? If I aimed to create a perfect logo design and it had the slightest bit of imperfection in it, would I be deemed a failure?
Over time, as I continued to grow into myself, I saw the many bumps and curves of life show me their uncertainty. In my journey as an artist and also as a woman, wife, mother, daughter and friend, I learned that the fear of simply being who God made me to be, allowing myself to take chances and make mistakes in every aspect of my life is actually it’s own type of prison. Fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of stepping out and doing something new, fear of fulfilling who I am truly meant to be is very restricting.
Later into my life, in my thirties, I learned that there is great freedom in learning about things that are beyond me, in learning to trust that I was made to do things in exactly the unique and individual way God created me to be. I am free from fear of failure, I am free from judgment of people, I am free from my own insecurities. I am free for new and amazing opportunities, I am free for taking risks and learning new things. I am free for making a difference in this world being exactly who I am, and letting go of comparing myself to anyone else.
There is a song, “No Longer Slaves”, by Bethel music. The chorus says, “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God”. And there is a scripture, Galatians 4:7, that says, “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir.” This tells me that if I can accept the safety and security of being God’s child, under His secure protection, provision, and under His will, I can be FREE to take chances and step more fully into who He created me to be.
What do you need to seek to be FREE FROM, and what do you want to be FREE FOR, in order to take full advantage and appreciation of who God created you to be?
Check-on Word of the Year Challenge
Have you decided to take the December Challenge to find your own Word of the Year?
Have you taken some time to ask God what your focus should be in the coming year?
Are you beginning to get some inklings of what your Word might be, and if not, how might you explore that?
Pray, read, listen, be open to what God is preparing for you and from you for 2019!!
This is exciting stuff, Sisters!!