I've come to realize something: part of the reason the young children in our families are already displaying controlling, critical behavior at a young age is because of what they are witnessing in us, the adults. There’s so much criticism that happens, it’s no wonder. Sinful pride insists that MY Way is the Only Right Way, or it is the Best Way and all should follow ME and the way I would do things and the things that I Like. And anyone who doesn’t do things My Way is an idiot and needs to be corrected or insulted. The children see us and they talk as we talk, they do as we do.
Humility and grace realize that most of the time, these little things we like don’t actually matter that much, that God isn’t hyper-critical and micromanaging me (my unique personality that He made, not meaning my sin nature or the sins I have chosen to indulge), so what right do I have to do that to others?
It’s no wonder [a person] openly treated me that way in front of you (and took it further in private). [He] knew there would be no one to correct him on that, of being controlling and critical and putting me down, because [he] observed everyone else around [him] doing it, and I disgracefully partook as well, even putting myself down to beat everyone else to the joke they would make at my expense. That's a form of verbal abuse. [He] always had me "dancing the dance that was never going to be good enough because he always changed the song just about the time I came close to achieving his unachievable rhythm" (as a wise, dear friend once said to me). That's a form of emotional abuse.
Maybe people don't comprehend, don't want to accept that being hyper-critical of someone, especially an adult, is wrong. It’s messed up. It’s humiliating and degrading; it's wearying. It’s proud and unkind to treat someone like an idiot or lesser than we are for not loading the dishwasher the exact same way as we do, or not feeding their dog at the same times we do ours, or other parents not having the exact same nap and bed times, activities, sports, schedules for their children as we do/did, as if we know best for everyone's children always. For criticizing HOW someone cooked dinner, and WHAT they made for dinner, instead of thanking them for cooking for you at all. For criticizing a gift for not being what you wanted. For criticizing people for being too skinny, for putting on weight, for forgetting to put on makeup, for wearing it differently than you would, for driving a different brand of car from you, or for pausing "too long" at a stop sign. How does the saying go: "Anyone driving slower than you is lazy/an idiot; any anyone driving faster is a maniac"? So isn't the implication that the only right way is being just like me, doing things the exact same way I would do them, all the time? What an impossible task! No wonder no one else measures up/is good enough. That’s being controlling. That’s what [he] was. That’s what we all were before Christ and should no longer be once we call ourselves by His name. That’s how [he] got away with it and no one notices, and many others like him will continue roping others in those chains, wolves among sheep, hiding wicked character in churches behind "service" and "good works."
It’s almost impossible to notice someone else’s behavior as wrong, as sin, if I'm still excusing it in myself every day. Impossible to notice the burden of perfectionism, criticism, of not-good-enough that I place on others, when I live under it myself.
If it's not a matter of sin, (and even if it is) "I would never..." is the expression of a fool. How do you know you wouldn't? Have you never made a mistake, or (gasp!) intentionally chosen what you knew was wrong? Have you been in that situation before? Then you don't actually know that, do you? "Let he who is without sin..."
That critical person is not who I want to be, not anymore. It's a choice (or a series of thousands of tiny ones). And it's time to be different.
And then, even worse is to call these people names who don’t do what we do, and how and when we do it. To mock and make fun of them for being different. Are we not all made in the image of God? Does He not delight in the uniqueness of His creation, in our individual tastes and talents and gifts? Why don't we then extend the same love and kindness to each other? Why are we still hurting each other this way?
This incessant criticism makes people who are different want to hide their true selves and likes and enjoyments from us, because joy and uniqueness get stifled and squashed by not being “right.” As if preferring one type of house decorating style (your preferred style), or condiment, or cookie, or worship music is "right," and all others are "wrong" or beneath us. As if our tastes were superior to all others. These things are a matter of preference. Why do we care so much, try to control so hard, these inconsequential things? Why can't we just say "Oh" or "Ok" with a smile about what others like? Why must we put others down with looks of disdain, eye rolls, and unkind words?
This behavior makes people begin to give up everything they’ve ever liked or enjoyed to become a watered down mimic of us, losing all sense of independence and autonomy. This is forcing the worst kind of conformity, and in a cruel way. Creativity, tastes, talents, and likes don’t need to conform. Unless they are wicked or cruel things, or sinful, (which they often are not and yet still are criticized and mocked in some "Christian" circles and cliques), people should be allowed to be free to like the books and songs and jokes and houses and little things that they like without criticism. They should be free to be who they are, who God has made them. All these little criticisms destroy joy, destroy a soul. They create loneliness and seclusion and bitterness. And shame. How can I make fun of someone created in God's image for liking to drink tea instead of coffee, or preferring putting the toilet paper under instead of over, then tell them that Jesus loves them as they are, as He made them? I obviously don't when I behave that way. And aren't we commanded to love them first and foremost, before we do anything else to them (or for ourselves)?
I despise the times when I've made others qualify or apologize for their likes, for being different from mine. But no more. And no more shame for it either. I want freedom, fully, from all of this.
[He] used to say that if someone made a mistake, we all were like sharks with blood in the water to be the first to correct someone. To prove "I am right and they are wrong," to point out how wise and smart and knowledgeable I am for having the “right answer” and correct information. So quick to speak to "correct" others, so slow to extend grace or to try understanding from anyone else's point of view, or why they chose something different (not actually wrong, just different). Is different so beneath me, beneath you? Who is proud of you for deciding that?
I still don’t understand why it wasn’t possible to be instructed without being put down or treated as lesser for not knowing.
A child is born not knowing. Should they be mocked for it, or treated as inferior? I don’t think they should, but maybe that’s how you want to continue the generations. I don’t want any part in it anymore. I’ve noticed how it makes some children not want to learn, not want to ask questions they don’t know the answers to. Who wants to be humiliated for their ignorance? How does that encourage learning? All it does is reinforce pride—selfish, mocking, puffed-up pride.
Maybe pride is the source of all this criticism; maybe shame is. I know I am not without fault. But I have also stepped away for a moment and looked upon it as an outsider and noticed its painful adverse effects on my soul. And I know I no longer want to be crushed under its thumb. I no longer want to have to hide the things I truly enjoy, or that make me laugh. I shouldn’t have to constantly defend my preferences because they don’t conform to someone else's.
She used to hide in her room for this very reason. She shut people out because of it, thinking they didn't like her, didn't love her, because of the way we put each other down, wolves tearing at bloody throats. (How many in the world have felt like this because of me, because of you?-ohmygosh look at what he/she is/isn't wearing to church?!, look at what he/she is/isn't doing that's different from me!)
I hid too, in many places. Sometimes I went into her room and we talked about the things we liked and we laughed at the strangest, silliest things until we couldn't breathe. And we tried, and sometimes failed, to not be like this anymore. But when we failed each other, we apologized and tried again, finding new connection points, picking up the trails of old ones, giving more grace. Every day we gave each other new grace, new kindness. This is how we fight against our old impulses. Every day, every opportunity, we try again. This is how wars are won, one battle at a time.
I miss her more than anyone else because she was a safe place, a person, a friend with whom I was always fully free to be myself. She was someone who embraced who I am instead of trying to conform, mold, manipulate me into her image. By the grace of God, He made us to be very similar, and we were comrades in excessive weirdness; desiring to be better people, sure, and less sinful, but also embracing the core beneath the scars, the beauty of individuality.
I have friends who also are this way and they are a balm, a haven, my most dear ones. Some of these friends are Christians; some are not. They don’t mock what they don’t understand, or belittle it, or act as if it is inferior. They delight in my delight, and I in theirs. That’s what love looks like.
We embrace who a person is, made in the image of God, even if they like to drink leftover olive juice or dance to ska in the kitchen while they’re cooking. Who cares?
Why cling so tightly to what doesn't matter?
Who hurt you?
Who controlled you so tightly? Whose critical voice became yours, still barking in your head? You can silence it. You can ignore it. You can call it a liar. I'm learning to. I tell it no.
I'm letting it go. These unique things about me (about all people) are not hurtful or sinful; it’s just being who I am, who we were created to be.
Maybe next time I show you who I am, try embracing it, or even laughing with me, or smiling at me, instead of criticizing or mocking or laughing unkindly at me for being different. I don’t have to be the same as you. I don’t want to be. I want to be fully me, as God made me to be, standing confidently in it, without anyone shaming me.
I am unique, interesting, weird, funny, friendly, joyful, and I’m done letting others steal that joy from me with their criticism, with their shame for being who I am. (Why can't we cast out shame as the sin it is? Why don't we remember we are FULLY free in Christ, and God convicts to lead to repentance, not shame/guilt over confessed/repented sins, and definitely not over things that AREN'T SIN! Shame for being who we truly are is a useless, unnecessary, heavy burden I want Every One to be free from, and the enemy wants you living under to steal your joy and hope and keep you chained to despair and loneliness. Shame is how slave-masters keep victims in chains; it is a yoke of slavery. Jesus died to set the captives free!).
I’m tired of hiding. I want to shine who I am. I wish you would let me. I wish you would let yourself shine too. I wish you would let go of whoever shamed you, of the lies in your head that say you need to live there, and see that there’s a better way to be: a way that lets go of control and embraces what it is with open hands, hands that receive.
I’ve learned life is better, (and I’m no longer bitter, critical, or controlling) when I receive with open hands all God allows and has allowed, when I accept who and what is.
I can love people better when I’m not standing in wrathful judgment over them, condemning them for being who they are (their true character, not the sin that can crust over a person. I am not speaking of that here).
People open their hearts like flowers when we are kind, listening, smiling, looking them in the eyes, and suddenly a room of people is filled with different, bright, beautiful colors. Then life is fuller, happier, has joy again. You can have it too. I promise there’s a way out of that darkness. I found it; I found Him (The I AM), deeper than I've ever known Him before, different than (my and others) perfectionism taught me He is. I don't have to be perfect, He makes me perfect, whole, full, in Him and through Him. HE is overflowing with grace and love (so should we be, not forcing others or ourselves to earn it), a God who delights in me and my unique silliness as much as she did (the one we lost), as much as [he] and the others who failed me should have, as much as children do, as much as we all should with each other.
Embrace who you really are; please stop shaming yourself, me, everyone else. Please stop trying to control everyone and everything and every little aspect of every decision and thought and word anyone has and Just.
Let us be who we are (yourself included), and embrace us, accept with thanksgiving what God gives and allows with open arms, open hands.
No one is better for their preferences. No one is lesser or worse for them.
Who did this to you; who taught you to be like this? Who made you believe this was the only way? This is not love. Jesus told us to "Love your neighbor as yourself." Do you not love yourself? Jesus does. What higher authority is there on truth? Will you believe Him? Will you accept and receive this?
We’re each different, unique, special, beloved, and what a blessing and a gift that is! I pray one day we all will open our eyes to fully see it. I pray we will all live so freely.
I know that so far you've been doing the best you could, maybe the best you knew how. But don't you want to live in even more freedom? You absolutely can. Stop criticizing and controlling; be humble and let go of shame and perfection. Just love them. Love you. And love them.
© 2021 Amanda Lorenzo