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You Don't Need Permission to Take Up Space

I'm a daughter, granddaughter & niece of pastors. I love God & studying the Bible and want to empower others to do the same.

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To the person who falsely thinks otherwise:

You don’t need permission to take up space, or to exist. You were created to do so, and so much more.


Today I went to make an afternoon cup of coffee in the coffee pot. It’s simple and old school like me, no pods, the kind where I put in a filter and pour in the grinds in one place and the water in the back. The back of the coffee maker is tall and just barely fits under the counter. To make coffee, I pull the whole machine out from under the counter, but just barely. I noticed that for the first time today when I was going to pour in the water and the lid almost snapped back shut against the flow of water because it was so close to the counter above it. So I pulled the coffee pot out further away from the wall and finished pouring in the water.

Then my brain began the old script of chastising myself: “Geez girl. This is why you constantly spill things and everyone thinks you’re so clumsy. Why didn’t you pull the machine out further from the counter in the first place? You almost made a mess.”

I recognized the shame gremlins starting (as the brilliant Brene Brown calls them) and I decided to answer their question to silence them. I wondered, “why do I do that? Why not pull the coffee pot out further from the back wall and the cabinet to begin with?” And immediately my brain responded with: “to take up as little space as possible.”

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I was shocked at that blunt answer.

“Why am I trying to do that?” I asked myself.

“So that no one will yell at me,” a little girl somewhere inside me immediately whispered.

Wait, what?!

Am I afraid to take up space?

Yes, because if I stay as small and out of the way as possible, I’m *less* likely to get yelled at.

I suddenly had flashbacks to being yelled at for making a mess. A mess I was trying to avoid by being as small and out of the way as possible. But in my cowering, I bumped into something else, because being hyper-vigilant doesn’t make me less clumsy. It makes me more so. And more likely to make a mess. And then more likely to get yelled at.

But you can’t tell anxiety that hyper-vigilance doesn’t work.

You have to follow the trail of anxiety all the way to the root and address it, speak truth and soothe it.

The root was: I was afraid to take up space, to exist, and I tried to make myself small and out of the way, because I was afraid of being yelled at. Because it happened sporadically in childhood (my parents were not “bad” parents—almost all parents yell at one point or another, and I internalized it as fear and anxiety, and that to be “in the way” was “bad’ and made me “bad”— though neither of those things are actually true).

And then a man who I loved and trusted learned that he could yell at me to get me to shut down and shut up and obey whatever he wanted at the moment. Yelling, and my subsequent fear, made me complacent. I was like Bucky Barnes, “Ready to comply.” All my weightlifting, trash-talking, female empowerment regressed to a frightened, skinny, six-year-old girl huddled in a corner trying to make herself small when he yelled me down into one. He probably felt big and strong. I did not. Whenever I could sense his anger building, I learned to make myself small. To take up as little space as possible. To make as little of a mess as possible, so I wouldn’t be criticized or yelled at for it, with loud screaming, right in my face. If I did it back, which I tried sometimes, he escalated. Louder. Bigger. He was so much bigger than me, which he proved to me, repeatedly, when no one else was home. Taller, stronger, muscles that were so safe when he was holding me were terrifying when they pounded a wall by my face, or smashed a plate.

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I learned to pull a coffee pot out from the wall as little as possible and put it back right away when I was done and wipe up any spills on the counter and not leave anything lying around that might get in his way. His messes were fine. Mine were not; unless he wanted me to sit with him at that moment, or cook for him, or play a game with him, to give him attention or my service.

Some of us have had partners, parents, grandparents, teachers, bosses who yelled at us for taking up space. For not doing things their way. They belittled and criticized and screamed their way into dominance and our submission, our bowing, our shrinking. And we internalized the lies that we need to take up as little space as possible, or none at all.

To those who have suffered any of this in any capacity—even if it was “smaller” in your opinion, that does not diminish the wrongness of it—I want to tell you how sorry I am that you suffered even a second of that. I want you to know it was WRONG and you DO NOT deserve it. You NEVER deserved it, NO MATTER WHAT you did or didn’t do. Their actions were wrong, and are NOT YOUR FAULT. And I’m so, so sorry that happened to you, from the depths of my soul.


And let me be very clear: that’s not God. Neither His character nor His desire.

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God doesn’t need to make Himself feel big by showing you how small you are. He already is big. The biggest. The most powerful. The strongest. As a matter of fact, the most powerful being in the universe, because of His love for you and me, did the opposite:

“rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” -Philippians 2:7-8

He humbled Himself. The all-powerful Master and Creator and Commander of the universe, stepped down into a human body, and obeyed. He served. He was what culture is starting to call a “servant leader.” He led by example how to be humble, kind, gentle, meek: power under control. He didn’t roll his shoulders and flex like a “tough guy” or rooster to show off how powerful He is. The soldiers who mocked Him on the cross suggested that Jesus do just that. They mocked Him and instead, He looked up to heaven and said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34-35)

This is what love looks like. It is patience, kindness, gentleness, not envious, not boasting, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, rejoices in the truth, trusts and gives the benefit of the doubt (hopes and believes all things)…(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

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Yes, Jesus got angry and yelled—at the unrepentant, greedy money changers. At the proud. The merciless. The cruel. Not at those who were terrified and asking Him for help, not at the hurting and broken. To them, Jesus spoke gently:

“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” (John 20:15) Jesus said to a weeping, heart-broken Mary Magdalene whose Savior had just died.

“Dear woman” can also be translated “dear lady.” He was kind, gentle with His words. He was tender, as He always is to the hurting and broken and lost and helpless. One of my favorite examples is in Hosea 2. Hosea’s wife Gomer was a serial adulterer, just like Israel was to Jesus, just like we do. We leave God’s path repeatedly to go our own way, worshiping, bowing to, spending all our time and energy and thoughts on “other gods,” ignoring our first love. And it leaves us hurting, broken, empty, lost in the wilderness. And that’s where God patiently waits for us, in our broken place, in order to help and heal us. Because we are hurting, empty, alone, Hosea 2:14 says:

"Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.

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That’s the kind of love God has for us, the kind of example He sets, the kind of leaders and spouses and coworkers and bosses and parents we need to copy. We need His help to do this every day, because some of us are still angry, bitter, hurt, or cowering because of those who did not lead like Jesus. But He can heal that and teach us to be different, better, more like Him. When I catch myself triggered and going down a negative spiral of anxiety, depression, fear, cowering, afraid to take up space, I pray. I tell God all of it. I tell God what others did to me and ask Him to help me forgive them and replace it with compassion and healthy boundaries that prevent them from doing it to me again. To help me firmly but lovingly say “No, I will not be treated that way or spoken to that way. Here is the consequence if you do that again.” To help me know when a person needs to no longer be someone I spend time with if it’s an unrepentant, repeated pattern of that behavior.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. -Romans 16:17

God helps me be strong enough to let my boundaries take up space. To let what I am and am not comfortable with in any kind of relationship to stand firm, not to cower and adjust around those who take advantage of my kindness.

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God can also help me heal enough to accept who I truly am, and that that person is allowed to, made to, specifically designed to take up space and accomplish things for God’s kingdom in His name, and by His grace.

Now this is what the LORD says--He who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine! -Isaiah 43:1

Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them. -Isaiah 43:7 NLT

All people were created to seek, to come to know, and to follow God; to obey Him and give Him glory in the lives He gives us, in every task He calls us to do, large and small. We were each created for specific, unique paths that include taking up space in this world and leaving a mark, a trail that testifies to God’s grace and goodness and love. Anyone who says otherwise or treats us as less than is a liar and is not following the example of God, their Maker.

Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. -John 14:23

Some fall off the path temporarily, some never wanted anything to do with it. God gives discernment on which is which, and who should or shouldn’t remain in our lives, or be part of which circles, or how/much we should interact with the people who cannot be removed fully. But God also can heal us from this fear of them and ourselves, as I can attest to, as He used a coffee pot to teach me. He can teach us to be who He created us to be, to take up space, to take our place, where He wants us to, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." Isaiah 43:7 NIV

For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. -Ephesians 2:10

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© 2021 Amanda Lorenzo

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