I have been accused of wearing my heart on my sleeve, of sharing more in a public forum than is deemed appropriate, of basically being too much of myself on the page. These things were said to me even before I came out of the “hard marriage” closet, and back then, I was writing only in veiled references most of the time.
But now…now that I am no longer hiding, now that I’m an open book, as I’ve been recently told, I am catching some flack. Okay, so, more specifically, in the past twenty-four hours. You see, I wrote a couple painful-to-write essays that have come under fire. And when you are a writer or artist or creator of any kind, you are actually what is scrutinized as your work is being scrutinized, because the work is an extension of you. My heart is in my words. I cannot be separated from them.
So, I splayed myself out there, letting blood drip on the page of some posts, and I heard from people.
Some, the majority, were kind. I heard that I was not alone. I heard that my story reminded them of their stories. I heard that God had healed them, or at least, was bringing them healing. I heard them say that they are stronger because of their pain. And I heard thank you for sharing this over and over. These are the words that should stay with me, that should push me to write even more authentically.
But then others, well…others I just plain ticked off. I heard everything from “you’re wrong to justify your actions” to “what is wrong with you??” to, basically, “you call yourself a Christian?” Talk about wanting to take my ball and go home.
But here are a couple things that I have in my arsenal now that I didn’t know ten or fifteen years ago.
I’m a part of a community of women, friends and fellow writers, who not only covered me with gentle words to heap on top of the harsh ones, but they even took to the streets for me. Not only did I not have to defend myself against those allegations, I didn’t even have to ask anyone to do so for me…they just went and did it on their own, “storming the castle” on my behalf. Even a year ago, I would’ve read the words that I read yesterday and I would’ve cried and I maybe would’ve not written another word for a while. But now, with these women surrounding me reminding me to be fearless and brave, I’m back on my horse, word sword in hand, doing what I’m called to do.
And I also know something else. I have spent my entire life caring desperately what other people think of me. Sadly, I have allowed that unhealthy thinking to flourish in every area of my life. In fact, recently, I had two confrontations within a few days of each other and I couldn’t help but obsess about them. Why did he say that? Why does she feel that way about me? Doesn’t he know I’m doing my best? Doesn’t she know my heart? And one day, I felt the Spirit say to me, clear as can be, “You care too much what other people think of you.” I literally said out loud, “Wait…what did you just say?” “You care too much what other people think of you. Only my opinion of you matters.”
Tears welled up in my eyes immediately. I hate disappointing people. And I mean, hate it. I fear having differing opinions from people who I know will be mad at me if I do so. I just want everybody to like me. But you know what I’m learning? Everybody doesn’t like me, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Everybody doesn’t agree with me, and they don’t have to. You reading this right now do not have to agree with even one word I say. It’s totally okay.
But this is what I believe now, and this is why I’m writing this morning after a brutal day.
“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (I Corinthians 4:3-4)
It turns out that it is scriptural – not selfish – to not care what other people think of me, especially because I know my heart. I know I’m not trying to justify anything, because I don’t have anyone to justify to. I know that I am a Christian because I love Christ. I know I’m supposed to be a light but it’s through telling the truth of my pain and how Jesus is healing me that I choose to shine it. And I know that he’s given me stories and words to share.
So for today, I’m listening to his voice only, and his voice is Love.
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