It happened yesterday. I was in my kitchen washing dishes and cleaning when suddenly I realized what I was doing to myself.
I had a couple of experiences recently where things were said to and about me that were unkind, and suggested a complete lack of ability or effort on my part to be good enough. In the moment I handled them fine. I didn’t retaliate, I didn’t get upset, and I didn’t explain my situation to someone who didn’t deserve to know the inner workings of my life. I moved on. Or at least, I thought I did. What brought me up short in my kitchen was the realization that as I was doing good things, I was listening to the person’s negative remarks over and over again. I had someone else’s critical voice on repeat in my head.
I stood there a moment, considering the contrast. On the outside I was working hard in positive ways. But in my private, personal thoughts I was letting someone else tear me down. The outer story was one of positive action. The inner voice was the opposite.
Why do we do that? Why do we let the thoughtless, unkind comments become a part of the story? Why was I letting someone else’s voice override my own and decide who I was? And WHY was I being a repeat audience to the performance?
There can be lots of reasons. In this particular instance, there was a bit of truth in the criticism. I know I can do better in that area. I’m not as confident about it as I am about other things, but it’s an area in which I’m deeply invested and want to succeed. I am aware of my shortcomings. Still, the unkind words were wrong. They were spoken in judgment without any effort to look at other factors or to offer me the benefit of the doubt.
Hearing criticism from someone strongly tempts me to lay the circumstances of my life out on the table in defense, so they can understand the parts they cannot see and recognize that I am trying. I suppose the urge springs from hope that if my efforts and constraints are understood, the criticism will cease or be withdrawn.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in the past couple of years is that having someone notice and want to discuss a deficit in my life doesn’t give them any right to know the inner workings of my heart or my challenge, and it certainly doesn’t place them inside my circle of trust. If they’re already inclined to misjudge me, giving them more information isn’t likely to help.
So on the outside, I’ve learned to handle these experiences just fine. Yesterday I took a hard look at how I handle them on the inside.
Do I take a compliment home with me and let it replay over and over in my head as I clean my house? Nope. So why on earth did I let it happen with an insult?
I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think we all tend to do it. It got me thinking AGAIN about stories, how we tell them, and who we allow to be the voice in them. And how those voices on repeat can undo us.
Yesterday I had to shake off someone else’s voice and dig a little to find my own. Here’s my re-write on that kitchen sink experience:
“I am a daughter of God with a unique combination of talents, strengths, and weaknesses. I am also a busy wife and mother with a great deal on my plate. In spite of my mess-ups, it’s amazing how much I remember and accomplish. It’s ok that choosing to do something important sometimes makes a temporary mess in another part of life, and it’s ok if others can’t see the good I AM doing because they’re focused on what I didn’t do. I am learning. I am growing. I am trying. I am praying. I am relying on my Savior. I am loved. And with His grace, I am enough.”
End of story. A bit more awesome in my bucket. No more criticism on repeat.
What story do you need to re-write today?