I remember a time when my kids were excited about extended family coming to our house to stay for a week. It was an annual occurrence that would be a happy yet dreaded time of the year for me. On the one hand, I was looking forward to the time to reconnect, but as time drew near to their imminent arrival, the noose would feel tighter. I would feel the tension in the back of my neck and that awful pit in the stomach as I furiously cleaned every corner of my house. I found myself yelling more at my kids as my stress level escalated because I needed to get the house in order before they arrived. If it wasn’t perfect, I’d hear about it.
In reality I had not made sense of my own truth. Instead I would recite bible verses to myself making sure that I hit His standard for who I was supposed to be.
- Love is patient, love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13) Translated: I must be patient and kind in all things this week.
- Selfless love lays down his life for another. (John 15:13) Translated: I must give up my needs and wants in order to love this person while they are in my home.
- Love one another as I have loved you. (John 13:34) Translated: God loves me even when I sin, so I must love this person regardless of the things this person says to me.
And the list went on.
It was my way of making sure that I was perfect when this person came to visit. If I was well prepared in advance, maybe this time I could avoid the hurtful comments and constant critique of where I wasn’t measuring up.
After three days of of being scolded, I was typically ready for them to leave. Regardless of what I had done to prepare, I still wasn’t measuring up. And let’s face it, it’s hard to be “perfect” for a whole week. My temper would get the best of me, words would be exchanged, and my kids couldn’t quite make sense of why Mom was so angry.
It took me more than a decade to discover my truth.
The truth was there was unresolved conflict that had simmered for years. There were family secrets that I was sworn to keep. And someone else trying to drive my family’s activities for an entire week was enough to send my well intended scripture verse litany to the far recesses of my brain as I emotionally erupted.
I had believed the lie that if I could be perfect for one week out of the year when this person came to visit and that I could shield my kids from the pain of my reality. I could hide the truth about these people in my life. And even though my desires were honorable–to hold family in high esteem–I couldn’t keep the mask on in front of my kids for an extended amount of time.
It wasn’t until my kids were in their 20’s that the family secrets came out. One day with tears in her eyes my daughter looked at me and said, “Mom, we never understood why you got so upset when they were here. What you told us about them and what we saw never matched up. I’m so sorry for all your pain. How could you have even allowed them to stay in our home?”
With those words, the light bulb went on. It had never occurred to me that I had a choice to allow them to stay. It didn’t dawn on me that I was trying to live a lie of that perfect family for my kids. In my world of truth, my feelings were to be ignored and not explored. And I was to humble myself to the point of letting others walk all over me.
Once I stared at truth from a scripture perspective I had a new dawning.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The truth was that in those moments, I was not loving myself. I was putting more emphasis on being perfect for this person rather than for speaking my own truth and examining my worth through my relationship with Christ. What this person thought of me was more important than what God says. I realized I was modeling for my kids that other people have more value and their opinions of me are more important than God’s opinion or desires for me. He is the creator of my feelings and longings. I learned to take John 8:32 to heart.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
I had modeled that being real wasn’t safe. Being vulnerable and authentic while speaking my truth, didn’t have merit. It was easier to pretend than be known.
A harsh reality for a woman who wanted to be a Godly mother.
Since that day I spent with my daughter, I’ve learned that to be open and honest with my feelings is a good thing. It brings connection and healing. Sharing our truth with our kids (when it is age appropriate), even though they are truths that make us feel shame, can truly set us free and give our kids a deeper understanding of who we are as individuals. Hiding our true identities out of shame and remorse says that we aren’t worthy of being who God created us to be. It sets us up to not be truly known by those around us.
It blocks the connection that most of us desire.
The good news is that by learning to be real and authentic as I recognize who I am in Christ, I’ve worked through those fears of not being “good enough”. Sure, they will rear their ugly head at times, but I now know that I can take my thoughts captive. I’ve learned that being a doormat brings me nothing but frustration and pain while living in my NOW and being aware of my feelings helps me process the real truth of the moment. By doing so, I can help my kids see that mom isn’t always perfect and it helps them recognize and accept their own imperfections.
It also helps my kids accept imperfections in others so that they can show empathy and grace to the hurting people they encounter.
Dare you to look to see what realities you are masking for your kids. Maybe it’s time to be authentic so truth can allow your family freedom to connect on a deeper level.
“Let go…and Let God”,
Learning to be lovingly authentic with those around us takes work. It means we need to know who we are in Christ while learning skills that will woo others rather than push them away. Many of us tend to be pendulum swingers. What I mean by that is that one minute we’re trying to be patient, loving, and kind and then something sets us off to where we are ready to blast a person we love because they have offended us or haven’t complied with our requests. This applies especially to our relationship with our teens. We love them unconditionally one minute and can’t wait til they move out the next. We want our relationship to be really good but at other times we’ve had our fill of their behavior.
Deflating Defensiveness is a course we’ve designed to put an end to the emotional roller coaster. You will learn how to deal with the other person’s emotion while you take care of yourself in the heat of the battle. You’ll learn what works to draw you closer together in the moment.
May 30-June 3 we hope you’ll join us near Cincinnati, Ohio for a Conflict Resolution Training Retreat that will deepen all your relationships.