Grace, Part 2: Giving it to myself

A couple of weeks ago (or was it months? I lose track of time these days), I wrote a post titled “Grace” about my story of God’s grace in my life.  This is something that I have continued to think about since, and have been challenged by in new and different ways.  Most recently, I’ve been learning how to give myself grace and simply rest in God’s grace.

The past few weeks I’ve been struggling with some health issues.  Maybe I shouldn’t use the phrase “health issues” lest you think it’s anything really serious.  It’s most likely blood-sugar related (yep, I’ll be going back to sugar free!  Turns out I can’t cut sugar out of my diet completely for a month, then add it all back in…). I have a follow up appointment with my doctor next week to investigate more.  My mom always told me that she thought I had some sort of blood sugar thing and I would just roll my eyes at her.  Guess I should have listened, especially before I did a crazy sugar fast followed by a bit of a sugar binge.  Anyway, all of that to say: I haven’t felt well lately.

It’s been hard.  I have been so tired, it has felt like every ounce of energy has been zapped from me.  For the past week and a half, pretty much every time Riley has napped (which is twice a day, usually for 1.5-2 hours) I have just laid in bed.  I don’t even sleep most days.  I just lay there, unable to move.  This means I was accomplishing nothing productive.  I kept feeling like I was getting behind, and not being a great wife, mom, or daughter of God.  Our apartment needed to be clean, laundry needed to be done, and stuff kept piling up.  I wasn’t going to the gym and our refrigerator was empty (actually it was full- of food that needed to be thrown out weeks ago, another task I was getting behind on).  And I would feel guilty.  Jordan and I don’t have the type of marriage where we believe it is up to the wife to do all of the cleaning and house chores, and he helps A LOT!  But there was a huge part of me that felt like I was letting him down.  I know he’s been stressed and busy at work and I DO stay home, so it would make sense for me to take the brunt of the house stuff on, right?  Plus, I really wanted to be able to take care of him in that way.  But all I could do was collapse on our mattress any time Riley was asleep.

In addition to the fatigue, I have had constant nausea and dizziness (this may be a good time to mention that I am not pregnant. I know that’s what you’re thinking 😉  But I promise I’m not.  And I promise that I know I’m not).   At pretty much any point in the day I feel like I just walked off of a ride at the fair called “The Dizzy Tornado.” And at times I mentally space out and cannot focus or form a thought. So that makes everything hard, including  hanging out with people to have good conversation and reading.  If you know me, you know that I love good conversation, and I love to read! Books, articles, blogs, but especially my Bible and things that help grow my faith in Jesus Christ. As you can imagine, this left me feeling helpless and defeated at times.

In my last “Grace” post I mentioned that I had been listening to some seminary lectures online by Steve Brown titled “Grace in the Church.”  I’ve listened to them a lot lately, since I’ve had trouble reading.  One thing that really stood out to me was something that Steve Brown said about his relationship with God.  He talks about how he gets up at 4am everyday because he just needs coffee and Jesus to start his day. He said that when he talks to God it’s nothing fancy or super spiritual, and he said, “I tell Him things that, if I told you, you’d reject me.  But He never does.”  I cannot tell you how many times that statement has replayed in my head and how much freedom I’ve found in it.  It was a reminder that, oh yea, I can tell God anything and everything, and whatever lies between.  He already knows and He already said that I’m His regardless.

And so I did.  Almost every time I laid in bed while Riley was napping, I would just talk to God.  For 1.5-2 hours at a time!  I would talk to Him about anything and everything, knowing that I would not be rejected, even at my worst.  Prayer is usually not my strongest nor my favorite of the spiritual disciplines.  But let me tell you, I started to love it! Because it was so real.  And raw.  And I kept feeling my need for Him and His love for me.  I was feeling so… physically weak.  But over and over again I would come to the refreshing reminder that it’s ok that I am weak.  Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually- it’s ok if I am weak!  As a matter of fact, it’s actually good.  Let me show you why (as I am learning):

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  (2 Cor. 12:9)

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about a “thorn” in his flesh that has made him weak.  Scholars have long debated what the “thorn” actually was, though many think it was some sort of physical illness.  Whatever the case be, I resonate with Paul.  And God responds directly to his weakness.   He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  As I was laying in bed I would meditate on this verse and think about what it really means.  It means this: His grace is ENOUGH.  I don’t have to earn it.  I don’t have to clean the house, or have energy, or be a “good” wife, or even read my bible (if you’re freaking out on me based on that last statement, you may suffer with this thing called “legalism”).  His grace is sufficient for me.  He does what I cannot, and He gives me what I cannot give myself.  Even if I were nothing but a vegetable and could not accomplish even one thing in life, He would still love me, would meet me where I am, and would use my life for His glory.  Weakness is good for us, because it reminds us that we have limits, but God is limitless.

I spent time pondering what Paul must have felt.  At the time, he had been accomplishing so much in his ministry.  But then this “thorn” slowed him down (he thought) and prevented him from moving forward with energy and zeal.  But God gave him this weakness as a gift.  It may sound strange, but it was a gift to Paul in reminding him that it was God’s grace that was accomplishing all these things through Paul.  I know that Paul received it as a gift, because here is what he says in verse 10:

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

He says he is content with this weakness.  I too have experienced contentment in my weakness these past few weeks. It seems crazy that we can be strong when we are weak, but I get it now.  My weakness has been a gift to me, because it has been in the weakness that I have really experienced God’s grace flood over me, and have been learning how to give grace to myself.

I do not have to be a good wife, good mom, and good daughter of God.  I am a human wife, a human mom, and a human daughter of God.  I have the right to be human.  And humans have weaknesses and limitations.  What a beautiful gift when we can accept it and rest in His grace.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Jesus (Matt. 11:30)

KM

Advice to my 21 Year Old Self

Sometimes I wish that we really could write letters to our younger selves. There is so much I would love to say to younger Krystal. But then again, I’m not sure she would listen. Even to her older self. She tended tends to be a bit stubborn. Nevertheless, every now and then I like to think about some of the things that I would say to my younger self now that hindsight is 20/20. I thought it would be fun to share some of the things I would say to my 21 year old self, when I was a junior at Elon University:

-Spend time with sorority sisters that you don’t know as well. Some of them will become your closest friends. That’s right, your sigma kappa ladies will be in your life far past your 4 years at Elon. Some that you didn’t know as well now will one day become your biggest support through pregnancy and motherhood.

-STOP thinking that an “attractive, godly man” is the answer to your problems. There are many attractive, godly men out there (even though it may not seem like it at times), and you will end up with one of them when you’re 24. Wonderful as he is, he will not be the answer to your problems. As a matter of fact, the issues you have now will still be issues when you’re married. So CHILL OUT. Marriage is not everything. Finding a guy does not solve everything. Put that journal down if you’re just going to journal about guys you have a crush on, or finding your “future husband.” There are so many other more important ponderings for those journal pages. Soak up every minute with your girlfriends, because you are really going to miss those days one day.

-STOP using so much self tanner. I mean, use a little bit. But not to the extreme that you are. 2 shades of light faux glow is way better than 20 shades of orange. Trust me. You’ll thank me one day when you look back through college pics.

-You are thin girlfriend. I know you don’t think you are but trust me, you are LITTLE! Take a few days (or weeks) off from the gym and just enjoy life. Please, I beg you, stop being so wrapped up in your appearance. Please stop comparing yourself to other Elon ladies. You are beautiful and you look exactly how you’re supposed to. Elon does not need another tiny, toned, tanned, trendy, blue eyed beach blonde. And you don’t need the stress that it’s causing you. Looking like everyone else or trying too hard is not going to get you anything worthy in life that you do not already have.

-You know how you pick on guys when you’re nervous around them, or become super sarcastic and snarky when you’re uncomfortable in social situations? Actually, you may not know that you do that, but you do. And it pushes people away and makes them feel shut down. It’s ok to be snarky and sarcastic. Just don’t do it at other people’s expense. You will be much more approachable and it will save you some regret later in life.

-Eat as many Octagon wraps as possible! Especially the BLTT ones. Well actually, you pretty much already do. But keep that up! You will only get to enjoy them for 4 years and then you will really miss them and one day you will decide to go back to Elon to enjoy one for lunch, and find out that they no longer exist :(.

-You are smart. Believe that about yourself. And flex that muscle a bit more. Put a little more effort into enjoying learning. You have the opportunity to take some really great classes. Education is important and you will continue to value it more the older you get.

-Stop using your Pheonix cash at A+ Tans. That is dumb. Use it up at the restaurants or hair salons that accept it!

-Write down the funny stuff that happened when you worked at Elon’s campus security. You’ll wish you could remember it one day!

-Stop spending so much money on clothes and actually save some of it. It will really come in handy when you’re struggling to pay bills your first couple of years out of college or when those student loans hit you like a ton of bricks.

-There will be a situation when you are asked in front of a whole class to stand on one side of the room if you believe there is only 1 way to heaven and on the other side if you believe there are many ways. DON’T do what everyone else does just because you’re scared to be the only one to believe the “close minded” thing. You will regret this for the rest of your life. Oh and don’t judge Peter in the gospels when he denies Jesus 3 times. You were him.

-Thank Allison Leslie every single day for being your Greek IV staff worker! You will be a Greek IV staff worker one day, and you’ll realize that she works a lot harder then you ever knew. You’re not as easy of a student as you think you are. And she does A LOT for you. She teaches you things that will shape you for the rest of your life. Show her your appreciation. And when she announces that she is leaving staff after your senior year? Take the reins in throwing her a farewell party.

-Listen to sermons by Steve Brown. You don’t know who he is, but the things he teaches will save you a lot of legalistic exhaustion!

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^my 21 year old self pondering life. (Actually I’m pondering the DC metro map, but whatever)

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^my college roommate and I digging “A+ Tans” coupons out of the trash can

What would you tell your 21 year old self?

KM

It’s OK Monday!

Monday’s are not usually anyone’s favorite day, so to give you a smile and (hopefully) some laughs, I thought I’d throw a little “It’s OK” at you from my day :):

It’s OK…

to put on jeans simply to prove that you actually wear normal clothes sometimes, only to change back into gym shorts an hour later. It’s also OK to not actually go to the gym in said shorts.

to get very excited about finding and purchasing a “mail organizer” at Target.

to create a twitter account for your child before they can say more than “mama” or “dada.” At least it will entertain you if not anyone else 🙂 (you can now follow “Riley” at RileyGooseTweet).

to consider the Bible God’s holy, inerrant Word and still think that parts of the Old Testament are… strange.

to actually think that Ramen noodles are delicious and eat them for lunch. A $.25 lunch is a great way to save money!

to go back on your diet. Starting tomorrow…

to find yourself singing children’s songs frequently. When your child isn’t even around.

to resort to making super easy meals for awhile and take a slight break from your love of cooking. It’s also OK that by “making” super easy meals you mean Trader Joes Mandarin Orange Chicken or a buy 1 get 1 free sub from Subway…

to swear off of magazines, but flip through an issue of US weekly while waiting in line at the store because, let’s be honest, you really do want to know if Emily cheated on Jef with one “f.”

What are your “It’s OK” statements for today?

Post Baby Weight Loss, Part 2: Leaving a Trail of Hurt

Several months ago, I finally caved in and blogged about my battle with post baby weight.  It was real, it was raw, I wasn’t proud of the things going on in my heart, but God was working on me.  In the month of July I invited my readers to follow me through my sugar free for weight loss experiment (part 1, 2, and 3).  So… I thought it might be appropriate to give an update on where I am with it now.

I.am.ok.with.my.post-baby.bod.

No really, I am.  That’s not to say that it’s not hard at times when Hollywood and our media surround us with so much…

Thanks, Hollywood.

skinny.  But here’s the thing: I am D.O.N.E. with it.  I am so done with hearing about, thinking about, reading about post baby weight!

I’ve realized that complaining/worrying about baby weight is entirely selfish.  And I’ve come to realize something else recently:  When we (women who have had babies) complain about baby weight, we are leaving a trail of hurt behind us, even if it is unintentional.

We hurt our children when our obsession communicates that their birth caused something we are unhappy with.
We hurt women who haven’t yet had babies because we communicate that it is a burden as we tell them “you will never get your body back.”
We hurt pregnant women, stealing their joy when we are consumed with our loss (of our former body) rather than focusing on our gain (the child).
We hurt women who are unable to get pregnant by dwelling on the inconvenience of a few pounds while their souls are delicate with the grief and waiting they are suffering through.
We hurt ourselves by believing that we are not enough, pulling us further away from the message of unconditional, Divine love that we were all designed to know and enjoy.

We are just feeding the cycle, helping spread the message that women are objects who are only as good as they look.  I’m so ready to step off this trail of hurt.

In the middle of writing this post, my daughter started crying in her sleep. As I went in to console her, tears came to my eyes when I thought about the chance that she would ever feel like a burden because of my twisted view of worth.

From here on out if you ever hear (or read) me complain about “baby weight” or make snark, negative comments about my body, please call me out.  You have my full permission to say something.  Stop me.

My body tells the story that I had a baby.  And that is a beautiful thing. ❤

KM

Just Keep Swimming… Or Floating.

Yesterday afternoon was exactly the kind of afternoon I needed.  My husband was able to take a couple hours off of work and, loving and gracious as he is, let me leave Riley with him and take off on my own for a little while.  I decided to go swim laps at the pool.

I had the pool all to myself, which I’m pretty certain was a sweet little gift from God.  I just needed space to be alone.  The water was so refreshing, it felt like some of my worries from the day started to melt as soon as I dove in.  Now before you go and act all impressed by me, know that I am not a lap swimmer kind of gal. I’m not very good at it, I just flail around ungracefully and pant like an old dog or something when I come up for breath.  Nevertheless, I felt a strong need to do something that would be simultaneously active and restful and swimming seemed to fit the bill.  And it worked.  The exercise, cool water, and alone time really helped to relieve some tension from the day and made me feel refreshed.

If you were to watch a silent video of my day yesterday, you would probably be confused.  Why was I having a hard day?  On the outside, it probably looked like a fine day, an enjoyable and easy one even!  But if you were to have an audio recording of my thoughts, you would see the real picture.

Earlier in the morning, I had taken Riley to meet a friend at the library for storytime.  Although storytime had apparently gotten cancelled, we still stuck around while the kids played.  Well, my friend’s kid played anyway.  Riley pretty much just pulled books off the shelves and I had to try and stop her from ripping the pages out.

We were not the only ones who seemed unaware of the storytime cancellation, we were surrounded by other moms with their kids.  To my left and right, in front of me and behind me were moms with their little toddlers.  And it freaked.me.out.   What I did not see in front of me was the life I had always dreamed of, being a stay-at-home mom.  What I did see left me feeling completely overwhelmed.

Lately I have been so aware of the fact that Riley is becoming more of a little person and less of a baby.  I know that this should be exciting, and in many ways it is.  But it is also scary and sad to me.  Not because she is growing up too fast (although she certainly is, and that does make me emotional!), but because I am not ready to be the mom of a toddler.  See, I’ve never actually enjoyed toddlers.  I’ve obviously never been a mom before (this is my 1st time, in case you weren’t aware 😉 ) but I have nannied and babsat a lot in my day and I’ve just never loved the toddler stage.  I’m just not a toddler person.  I’m a baby person.  Though many of my friends had told me that they were happy when the newborn stage passed, I am mourning it. Call me crazy, but I LOVED age 1-6 months!  Years 1-3 are my least favorite ages of a kids life. Once they’re 4 and older I enjoy it, and as I mentioned, when they’re younger than 1 I LOVE it.  But my baby is closer to being in the 1-3 year age range and I am just not ready for it.  I’m not ready to run around chasing her all day, saying “no” all the time, and having to plan “activities.”  Just the word “activities” mades me cringe a bit as I write this.  No, I just want to hold my little infant 24/7 who will fall asleep in my arms.  I want the life where she basically just nurses and sleeps, where I hangout with my soul mate mom friend while our babies are just content to lay in our arms.  The life where I have an excuse to nap during everyday and I often do it with my baby in my arms or by my side.

But Riley doesn’t fall asleep in my arms anymore.  As a matter of fact, she does not even want me to hug her unless she is hurt or sick.  She is fighting for her little independence and getting into ev er y THING! Everything.  And the life I loved for 6ish (give or take) months is slipping out of my hands.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it will be an amazing thing to watch Riley grow with each new phase of her life, even the toddler phase.  But… I just don’t know how I’m going to do it.  I have no idea how to be a mom to a toddler.  When I would babysit for toddlers, I could leave at the end of the day and have weekends off.  When they had discipline problems, that was up to the parents to figure out.  But now I’m the parent.  There will be no nights or weekends off.  I’m nervous.  And I’m sad.  So I cried.  I cried in my car on the way home. And I cried when I got home.  And just when I thought I was done, I bumped my knee on the dresser, which made me cry some more.  Not because it hurt that bad, but because it just took so little to push me over the edge.

At the end of swimming my laps, I ended up just floating on my back in the water for awhile.  My ears under water blocked out all the busy sounds of the world, and the sky was a beautiful, crisp blue with few clouds.  I get overwhelmed when I think about all I have to “do” as a mom, but in that moment I could just… be.  I think I took a long, slow breath for the first time that day.  Because looking at the sky reminded me Who is in charge, and that He will always have my back.  He promises us, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” (from 2 Cor. 12:9).  I may not know how to be a mom to a toddler, I may not be that good at it, and even if I am I may not enjoy it that much.  But I want to join Paul in saying, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Many Christians will say, “God will not give you more than you can handle” but I don’t think that is actually true.  I think sometimes He does give us more than we can handle because then we see our limitations, our humanity, and our need for Him to handle it for us.  I think that it is in the things we cannot handle that we experience His grace the most powerfully.

So that’s where I am today.  Standing in front of a big mountain that I cannot handle on my own, completely dependent on Him to help me with the climb.

KM

Reckless Writing

I blog for different reasons, and I blog in different ways.  Sometimes I write thoughtful responses to certain issues that I/we face and experience (especially women); sometimes I write light, funny posts; sometimes it is just an update on something in my life (pregnancy, going sugar-free, etc), and other times it is simply to vent.   I write to encourage others, provoke thought, speak truth into cultural lies, make people laugh, and also as therapy or a hobby for myself.

When I first started blogging, it was mostly for myself.  I would say, “I don’t care if a single soul reads my blog, it’s just so good for me to write!  I love it.”  But then I started learning that (gasp!) I have readers!  And not just like my mom and my grandmother (although I’m so glad that they do read 🙂 ), but quite a few readers.  Friends from church, college, high school, IV staff, former students, family friends, slight acquaintances, and even people I have never met.  As a matter of fact, one of my Chapel Hill friends randomly met one of my high school friends once and, realizing they both knew me, talked about how they had read my blog.  This was so surprising and humbling to me.  I couldn’t believe that this many people would care in the least bit what I had to say.  This motivated me to write even more.  It has been so fun interacting with my readers and to talking to some of them in person about some of the things I have written about.  But then something started to happen.  I started writing for them.  I would try to think of things my readers would enjoy reading about, and would get giddy as I anticipated commiserating or encouraging comments, “likes” on my facebook link, or messages in my email/facebook inbox.  This is all really good, and it has been really fun!  But somewhere over time, I realize that I have stopped blogging for myself.  And now when I write posts that get little or no response from my readers, I have found myself feeling disappointed, rejected, and as if I’ve wasted a couple of hours of work.  I’ve lost the invigorating, satisfying feeling of writing for myself; and therefore have sensed my love for writing slipping through my fingers.

I still want to write for others too, and look forward to the great fun that is interacting with my readers!  But from now on, I want to create a little more space to write for myself too.  I want to write posts that are full of things on my mind, that I want to sort through, record, or release in an abandoned way, not driven by whether or not people read it or like it. I want to feel the refreshing freedom of writing recklessly.  Not editing every word.  Not polishing and re-polishing, obsessively checking for comments.  Just letting it loose, with my hands typing away in perfect sync with my mind.  Maybe someone will really connect with something I say.  Maybe someone else will want to encourage me, share their own thoughts and experience, or bring up questions.  But maybe they won’t, and that will be OK too.  Because my heart and mind are important, regardless of whether or not they are seen or appreciated.  Because writing is something I love.  Because writing is not my job, it is my hobby, and I want to enjoy every second of it!

So later today, I think I’ll write for myself.  I’ve had a hard day. Maybe I’ll write about it. 😉

“Writing is a struggle against silence.”  –Carlos Fuentes

KM

Perception.

My freshman year of college I met a girl named Leah in my “recruitment group” for rushing to join a sorority.  I didn’t like

Leah and I in 2010

Leah at first.  She was so friendly and bubbly to every person she met or talked to.  Always peppy with an extra spring in her step.  She was… fake.  I thought.  Who is happy and bubbly all the time?  No one, I believed.   Clearly she had to be a fraud, and I didn’t care for frauds.  Before you think I’m a jerk let me tell you that Leah wasn’t my biggest fan either.  She thought I was… stuck up.  Snobby.  That I thought I was better than everyone else.

Leah became one of my best friends in college, and we ended up living together for 3 years!  We still talk to this day, almost 7 years later.  I still consider her one of my best friends.  Apparently, our initial perceptions of each other were not accurate.

Leah is one of the most real people I know, always quick to share even the hard things in her life, her failings, and the deepest parts of her heart.  I wonder how many people may not have had the amazing opportunity to experience these parts of her because they wrote her off as “fake,” like I almost did.  Leah and I laugh now about the way we perceived each other our freshman year and how funny it is that we became such good friends.

Unfortunately, Leah is not the only person to confess that their first impression of me was that I am stuck up.  I actually hear that a lot, once people are at a place in our relationship where they feel comfortable sharing that with me.  Thankfully, they also affirm that once they got to know me they realize that it is not true of me.  The truth is that I am shy.  Super shy.  I get really uncomfortable in large crowds or groups of people I don’t know well.  And I hate small talk.  HATE.it.  It feels so superficial to me and I feel so fake when I attempt it.  I am a sucker for a good, long, deep, one-on-one conversation.  That’s where I’m in my element.  I like to be real, and I like to talk with people who are real with me about who they are and what they’re going through.   I like to just jump right into conversations about significant parts of this awful, beautiful world.  This whole, “Hi! I’m Krystal, nice to meet you!  Isn’t the weather just… great!  Wait no, I mean… it sucks.  Well weather in general doesn’t suck, but… this humidity?!”  Yea, I hate it.  You see how awkward it seems when I even just type it.  Not my thing.  So I just kind of… don’t talk much in new groups or large crowds.  Add to that the fact that my coping mechanism when I’m uncomfortable in social situations is sarcasm, and I guess I can see why I may come off as stuck up.  A couple of friends said they would also add to the equation that I love fashion/dressing trendy and that it can be intimidating to some people.  I am thankful that some of the people who thought these things still gave me a chance because they are some of my best friends today.  But it does make me sad that, in social situations, people perceive that I think I’m better than everyone else, when really the opposite is probably true.  It is more likely that I feel insecure and intimidated.

I asked friends on facebook to share with me some of the ways that they have been incorrectly perceived by others.  Here are some of the responses:

“A lot of people assume I’m homosexual. Doesn’t matter if they’ve had a direct interaction with me or not, and if they have how many times they’d actually talked to me. In fact, most of the people that ask me (or my friends) if I’m gay are people that have just met me or heard me talking in front of a group…But what does making that assumption mean? How many of my friendships have been affected by the apparent vibe I give off? Do guys not feel comfortable talking to me about ‘guy things?’ Do girls only talk to me because they want a ‘gay best friend?’ You might be laughing or shaking your head right now, but I can tell you from experience, people have approached me about things like that. I don’t even really know what I do to make people think that I am gay. Maybe because I dress well? I started dressing well to impress a girl I liked in high school. Maybe because my voice is a little in the tenor range? I can’t really control that. My mannerisms? I talk with my hands; most people in my family do. Maybe it’s a combination of all 3? Maybe it’s something completely else? And if I knew what made people think I’m gay, would I change whatever that is? Who am I, after all these years? ”

“I am always assumed to not be smart. I was meeting with the head of the English dept at Elon at the time about graduation and my requirements…I had her for at least 3 classes during my time at Elon and she actually said to me ‘you know, I didn’t expect very much of you when I saw you walk in…oh just some blonde supermodel sorority girl…but you’re actually really smart.’ those were her EXACT words and I have never forgotten them..I get this a lot, usually when I’m dating, guys are really surprised that I’m smart. I have no idea why, I’m guessing it’s because I have blonde hair, or put myself together well or something…or just because I don’t look like I live in the library (even though I actually do)”

“People  judge my faith in Christ based on my political statements, and judge my political statements not based on what I say but on what they believe; they ignore the words I say whenever anything could be construed as a negative statement about something they believe. And if they perceive my politics as differing from theirs, my faith differs as well. And if my faith differs, I have none. I believe a lot of people don’t think I’m a Christian at all, simply because I have different political views than they do.
I also believe people view my as arrogant or egotistical because of the same misinterpretation of the passion I feel towards my (rather moderate) political beliefs.
In reality, I’m not arrogant about what I believe at all; I’m very self-conscious about my beliefs, not because I think they’re wrong but because I worry people will be upset at me for what I believe. Even though I know it’s not true, I sometimes feel that if I feel bad about my believes because of how upset people get over them, maybe I’m a bad person for thinking that way. And my beliefs are not very extreme at all, but I think people view them as so since the area I live in is very conservative and anyone outside of that realm is automatically the enemy…”

A couple of months ago I read this article in Glamour magazine where they did a survey with 1,800 women that revealed that many people immediately perceive  overweight women as “lazy” or “sloppy,” and thin women as “vain” and “bitchy.”  It is a sobering and sad article about weight stereotyping.  Geez, I really wish women could just be for each other and help each other out instead of tear one another down, but that’s another post for another time (or has been another post at another time).

So why do we do this? Why do we so easily perceive people to be different from how they really are?  I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now, and here is what I have come up with (I will use my story with Leah as a hypothetical example for each one):

  1. We are projecting our past experiences on other people.
    If I had a past experience where I trusted someone who was friendly and bubbly only to find out that they were not really those things and they betrayed me, then I might think that people who act that way are all like that.
  2. We are projecting our insecurities on other people.
    If I were insecure about not feeling happy all the time, I might project that on Leah, disliking her because I assume she has something that I don’t.  It’s easier to assume something negative (“she’s just fake”) then to accept that she has what I want.
  3. We are projecting cultural stereotypes on other people.
    I have seen one too many movies where the bubbly, happy, cute girls turn out to be be back stabbers and sorority girls are anything but real.   This unfortunate stereotyping would cause me to assume that Leah (a bubbly, happy, cute sorority girl) is potentially a fake back-stabber.
  4. We are projecting the way that we are or the way we would/would not respond to things on other people.
    As I mentioned above, I am shy and not good at small talk.  When I am in big or new groups of people, I am intimidated, insecure, and shy.  So if I were to act bubbly and friendly, it would be fake.  Therefore, when I saw Leah doing these things, I may have assumed that about her.
  5. We are projecting values we have and characteristics we attribute to them onto others.
    I highly value vulnerability.  Some of the characteristics that I associate with vulnerability are the ability to jump straight into real talk, and a tendency to answer questions honestly (like “How are you doing?”).  So if Leah was acting excited about small talk, I may have assumed she was not a vulnerable person.

Perhaps it’s impossible not to ever assume truths about people that we do not know yet, but I do think it would do us all a huge favor if we tried a bit harder to get to know people first.  I wonder how many friendships, good conversations, or awesome life lessons I too have missed out on because I perceived someone to be different then who they really are.

I’ll close with a quote from one of the few things I actually enjoyed reading amidst all of the Chick-fil-a controversy craziness:

“Not every Christian who believes in “traditional marriage” is full of hate. Not every Christian who supports the civil rights of gay folks is a Bible-rejecting defector. Not every gay man wears glitter and drag in Pride Parades. We are not caricatures. We are people, and life is nuanced. Until we stop assigning stereotypes to each other and do the hard work of actually getting to know one another as friends, or at least human beings, we are going to sabotage every good, productive possibility in front of us. Gross generalities are lazy…” –Jen Hatmaker

Amen girl!

KM