Sometimes it’s hard to separate people’s perceptions of you from who you actually are. It has been one of the hardest fights of my life. Turns out I’m a terrible people pleaser and have been known do almost anything to get someone to like me, so when someone didn’t think I was the bees knees and said so, it was hard to handle, throwing me sideways for an absurd amount of time. I didn’t know that people don’t get to define me, so I spent years and years of my life pulling on people for something they couldn’t give me. I mean, yeah, they told me who they thought I was, but it wasn’t always all that encouraging, and rarely was it the full truth, sometimes landing squarely in the absurdly and harmfully wrong category. But over time I came to understand that my identity doesn’t come from what people think of me, that if someone saw me negatively it didn’t mean I was the one that was messed up. This was kind of important to learn.
The deeper I dive into understanding and accepting who I was created to be, into unraveling the lies I believe that drive my behavior, the more I change my mind about how I see God and myself – the further I go into the Truth, the less impact other people’s negative opinions of me has. That’s not to say it still doesn’t touch me – it does. Sometimes deeply. But I find that I don’t spin my wheels nearly as much as I used to – spinning and spinning, never making progress, never moving forward – just burning up the energy it takes to live trying to get over it. I look back on those tormented years of wasted energy and I’m deeply thankful that I don’t live in that place anymore. But sometimes – on occasion – someone’s opinion or rough view of me makes it’s way past what I know to be true of myself, down deep into that soft place in my heart, and cuts me.
Then my work becomes two-fold. Not only do I have to sort out the faulty perception of me against what is True, I also have to tend to the wound. So my goal has been to not spend so much energy wound tending, but instead, moving forward in my life.
Elijah said to me once that he was waiting for the day when I showed up to conversations with all people as myself – not cowering or hiding when I’m afraid of rejection. I took that to heart. The rub with that approach to life, however, is that you open yourself up to hearing what people really think of you, since you’re saying to them what you really think. But honestly it doesn’t become a problem unless your heart is laying open, unprotected, unless you don’t have the Truth about who you really are to defend you against people’s misperceptions of you. When I am secure in the Truth about myself, my heart is at peace and people’s misperceptions of me don’t make their way in to create the wound in the first place. I am protected by Truth. Peace guards my heart and mind. And while sometimes a person’s words make it past my defenses, my heart is no longer open fodder for any old thing that any random person thinks of me.
If you knew me in my 20’s and 30’s you would understand what a big deal this is. It’s huge. Monumental. Utterly life-altering. I used to be totally paralyzed if someone saw me negatively. I lived in a constant state of fight or flight – always running, always hiding., because it was so easy to believe the lies about myself were true. And while it still hurts when people have a low opinion of me, I find that I can navigate it now – much more efficiently, with less breakage, with more grace and peace.
I’m thinking of one comment in particular today from an old friend. They always had the ability to drive the knife deeper than most because I had given them that access to my heart. And while I know what they said is utter nonsense, that it wasn’t about me but rather about their own broken state of mind, I still think about it almost a year later, still wanting to defend myself against it, which lets me know I am not fully allowing peace to guard my heart and mind – as I am learning to do from reading Philippians 4.
It reads: 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
The Passion translation of Philippians 4:7 says “…then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ”
When we are at peace, our minds are clear and we can move through things with gentleness and grace, hearing from God the answers we need. Gentleness does not equal weakness, by the way. It takes tremendous strength to navigate rough words and actions coming at you and remain gentle, kind, patient… These all being qualities of the Spirit. — but that’s a whole blog of its own.
Today I am choosing to let peace guard my heart, guard my mind – to be an active force in my life to keep me grounded in what is true, so I won’t be thrown around by anyone’s misguided perception of me, no matter how rough the words, no matter how terrible the lie, no matter how close the person may have been. I am kept in peace, guarded by peace, protected from hostility that comes at me from someone else’s brokenness, without spending my life getting over hurt, living the life of fullness that I know belongs to me.
So until next time, my friends – let’s show up as who we really are and let peace be our guard.