Why You Should Apologize to Yourself

Why You Should Apologize to Yourself

We all know saying sorry to others is important. But have you ever thought about saying sorry to yourself? I hadn’t until I read this blog post on Storyline by Mike Foster a few weeks ago about negative self-talk. Read it then come back here, please.

I don’t know about you, but his words were spot on for me and the way I talk to myself. Think about all of the voices that go off in your head as you go through your day. If you lean perfectionist like I do, you may have a few more voices and they are probably a little more critical.

For me, the voices start early in the day. The first thing I see when I walk into my office in the mornings is a big, dim, full-length reflection of myself in the tinted mirror/wall opposite the front doors. I tell myself not to look, but I always do and then I always have an opinion about what I decided to wear that day and how I look in it. I share this opinion with myself and make it to the stairs v. elevator debate a few feet away. “You have to take the stairs,” I tell myself, “and you know why.”

After this internal conversation about my looks is over, the internal conversation about my day begins. I check my calendar and see a meeting scheduled that I’d forgotten about and beat myself up for forgetting about it, even though it’s two hours away so it’s not like I’m going to miss it. Then I start to make my to-do list and get distracted by an email, so I get onto myself for being so easily distracted. And the negativity continues and progresses until it’s really a miracle I make it home not physically bruised from it all.

I think we become very accustomed to this in our lives. It’s the norm to be mean to ourselves and then nice to others. This is how we exist, but we don’t have to.

The other day I decided to put into practice #3 on Mike Foster’s list of recommendations for kicking negative self-talk to the curb: Apologize to yourself. I had been making fun of myself for acting awkward in a social situation and was running over in my head how I should have said and done things differently. I do this a lot–chastise myself for not acting “cooler” in public. But this time, I stopped me mid-sentence and apologized. To me. I said I was sorry I was being so hard on me, and that really I hadn’t acted that awkwardly and probably no one had noticed. I said I was sorry I lacked grace for me and then I gave myself a compliment.

It felt weird, and writing it out like this feels even weirder, but as I was kind to myself in my thoughts, I felt that toxic negativity start to leave and make room for a little confidence and grace to enter in. It’s physics (or something), really. You release the bad stuff and have more space for the good. Think about that, the potential beauty inside of you released with a simple apology.

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Stop Pretending You Know What You’re Talking About

Stop Pretending You Know What You're Talking About

The other night I found myself in a cluster of new friends at a concert. The second band was sound-checking so we huddled together to talk about the previous band, what we thought about them, if we liked them and why, how they fit into the trend of that genre of music these days, where music was headed in general, and how everyone was starting to sound like The Black Keys. And when I say “we” talked about this, I mean that they talked about this, I said very little, and mostly listened and smiled. Because I don’t really know how to talk intelligently about the type of music we were seeing. I don’t even know what it’s called – Indie? Americana? Words I don’t know the definitions to.

At first, I felt ashamed at my lack of contribution to the conversation. “Everyone is starting to sound like The Black Keys? What does that even mean?” I thought to myself. I like be to useful in chats like this and add interesting facts that impress people, but on this topic, I really had nothing to say, and I grew fearful these new friends would not like me anymore. That they would move on to other clusters of people who did things like listen to vinyl records and would never listen to Taylor Swift turned up loud with the windows rolled down.

In my moments of insecurity, I began to remember a friend I really respect. The reason I respect her is because she never pretends to know things she doesn’t know. She asks the questions everyone else is too afraid to ask but we’re all deep down wishing someone would tell us the answers to. So I decided to channel this friend’s confidence in my conversation at the concert and finally asked what the guy meant when he said music is all starting to sound like The Black Keys. The answer turned out to be interesting (something about their producer who produces a bunch of other random artists), and I felt like I learned something I wouldn’t have leanred if I had continued to stare at the few of them and nod as if I agreed and understood all of their musical jargon.

The best part was, these new friends did not seem to like me less after I confessed my ignorance. They didn’t point their fingers at me and laugh; they simply answered my questions in a kind way, happy to have some knowledge to offer me. Their kindness invited me to be myself for the remainder of the night. And nights are always more fun when you’re being yourself instead of pretending or trying to be someone else.

It’s so easy to like people who are genuine and comfortable being themselves, and it’s so easy to forget that we are allowed to act this way too. I would much rather be friends with someone who is honest than friends with someone who’s trying to impress me. We can’t all know everything about everything, and that’s ok.

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‘The Waves and Wind Still Know His Name’

The Waves and Wind Still Know His Name

If you’re not familiar with the Bethel version of “It Is Well With My Soul,” get familiar with it now.

This song played in my head all weekend. My little sister chose it as part of the music played in her wedding ceremony, and I melted as I heard the band rehearse it at the church Thursday night and then again when my sister and I played it on repeat (at my request) on the way to the bridal luncheon and finally during the wedding itself as it played and everything else was silent before the moms walked down the aisle with the ushers’ help, and the bridesmaids lined up behind the large wooden doors, hushing the flower girl who kept meowing back at us.

There is a line in the chorus of this song I’m singing still:

“The waves and wind

still know

His name.”

I first caught it in the car as the song played on its fourth repeat. “They still know His name,” I thought as I drove. “They still know His name,” I thought as we reached the old downtown manor where the luncheon would be held. “They still know His name,” I thought as I got out of the car and walked beneath the too-hot 10am sun. I kept thinking about this lyric until I said it aloud to no one, “THE WAVES AND WIND STILL KNOW HIS NAME.” I couldn’t help myself. They still know His name!

You know this story. Remember it. There was a storm and the disciples were afraid and Jesus was asleep and they woke him up at a loss for what to do, “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:39-41).

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about this wedding and how as much as I was looking forward to it, it reminded me of a color I was missing in my life’s paint-by-number creation. And tonight I sit here and all I can think about is how that story in Mark didn’t just happen in Mark, but that it happens still. That Jesus told the wind and waves to be silent and I like to remember that story in past tense and I keep it locked up there tightly. I forget he is the same today, that those winds and those waves? They still answer to Him. That my “storms” as I like to dramatically consider them, are at the mercy of Him not only years and years ago but this morning, and tonight and tomorrow. That His faithfulness is in motion, not sporadic. It’s continuous and moves with us, in and out of the dark and light times, whether we see it or not.

Nothing about this weekend felt unfair or incomplete as our paint-by-numbers often can. When you walk in the knowledge that everything around you still knows His name, that includes you too. And if you know his name, life is suddenly filled in with peace and, like the waves and the wind, you are still.

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Who to Share Your Dreams With and When

Retro microphone on stage

I’m learning that I can’t tell everyone everything. My habit has been for a long time to gather opinions from everyone around me when I’m making a decision or going through a difficult time and need some guidance. I remember once when I was dating a guy, and he had told me he didn’t want to do anything with me on Valentine’s Day. We had only been seeing each other for a few weeks, so I sort of understood his reasoning and tried not to read too much into it. However, the next day at work I proceeded to poll half the women in my office to find out what he “meant” by that. And as a result, I received about 40 varying opinions that ran the gamut from “chill out, that doesn’t mean anything” to “RUN!” All the voices of these women in my head sent me home more anxious about my lack of Valentine’s date than I had been on my way to work that morning.

That was the day I began to wonder if I should be more choosy about who I share important information with and who I seek wisdom from. What to share, with whom, and when. This is what I try to ask myself now. And more recently I’ve been doing this in the area of my dreams and passions. Wondering who I should share them with so that I don’t cry all the way home with 40 different voices in my head that run the gamut of overly encouraging to “you’re an idiot.” It is such a delicate balance. It is taking seriously the pearls to swine metaphor. And it often takes the negative and hurtful responses to teach us this.

If you are really honest with yourself, you probably know who your safe people are. You know the friends and family who are wise and caring with the secrets and stories you tell them, and you know the friends and family who are not so wise and caring and who have wounded you. Those people are still an important part of our lives. You probably enjoy them and like them and don’t want to stop telling them things altogether, but is it worth it to give them the precious things? The secret fears and dreams, when you know they’re more likely to manhandle the information than they are to hold it lightly and talk it through with you? Probably not.

In my current life phase, I’m excited about pursuing new dreams but finding myself protecting what I say to whom and when. It’s not being guarded as much as it is being careful. It is hard for me to not blurt out every idea and struggle, poll my entire office building and send out mass texts to different friend groups. I want people to give me feedback and tell me what to do, but I also know that I can make decisions and progress without hearing from numerous people in my life first and that in the end, there are only a handful of voices I should be listening to anyways.

 

 

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When We Let Friends Go

When We Let Friends Go

I spent this weekend wandering around a city where my good friend lives. I didn’t see him while I was there though. I actually haven’t spoken to him in a few years. We’ve lost touch and reaching out at this point would have felt strange. I was there for a music festival with another friend and as we drove, I remembered him, this friend I’ve lost touch with, and I wondered how he was. I wondered where his house was, or if I would run into him. I wondered if his family was ok and if he still looked the same. We drove to and from the festival, and I wondered how the people of our past can continue to be a part of us.

Even when we say we’ve lost touch, do we ever really lose touch? Don’t the people we meet, however briefly, affect us in a way that changes us, and we carry that change with us?

I always hated saying goodbye to new friends at the end of summer camp, and the end of the school year and at graduations and after mission trips. I wanted to keep an email chain going with everyone so that none of us ever had to say goodbye. We could all just keep in touch forever. Of course by now I’ve realized this is impossible. What usually happens is you make promises to keep in touch, you sign each other’s yearbooks and then make 3 or 4 phone calls, write a couple of emails, send an un-returned text, and it’s done. You sort of putter out. And this, I’ve come to realize, is ok.

Because not everyone you cross paths with is meant to be on your journey for the long haul. My friend from above was pivotal for me at the time I knew him. We learned from each other and did our best to keep in touch and then years later I can drive around his city and smile and not feel bad about not texting him to let him know I’m in town. We’re living our lives. We remember each other. It’s enough.

Then, there are friends who stick with you regardless of your pitiful keeping-in-touch efforts. I have a wonderful friend I talk to on the phone maybe twice a year. We’ve lived at least a couple of countries apart for most of our adult lives, yet neither of us feels like we’re puttering out. We know we are meant to be on each other’s journeys for the long haul even if that looks like an annual, rushed “I’m running through the airport, just wanted to say hey” kind of phone call.

Some relationships stick, while others, even with the greatest efforts, just don’t. I believe this is for a reason. I believe friendship should be as natural as possible. If you’re struggling with maintaining a relationship you know is doomed to putter out, don’t beat yourself up about it. If we continued every friendship we’ve ever made, we would live an impossibly exhausting social life. Gently let go of the ones who you know are fading away. And gently, with gratitude, hold onto those resilient ones.

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The Risk of Getting to Know People

The Risk of Getting to Know People

I think I’m getting worse at knowing people. What I mean is, I used to be able to ask new acquaintances endless questions about themselves. This is because I have good parents who are good at asking people questions, so I learned this from them. I’m still more of an asker and listener than a talker, but I remember after my first year out of college realizing this had gotten more difficult for me; it took more energy to keep asking questions. I blamed this on the fact I was living in England and people are less nosy about other people there in general. But I notice it still. It is much easier to not ask someone about her story, to just let it be and keep talking about the weather.

I wonder if we get weary of this because we’ve heard all of the sad answers by now. When you enter into the great big world, you ask a stranger a question and you hear about his heartache and abuse and sadness and failures and, well, it would just be easier to not hear those things. I wonder also if we get more consumed by our own heartaches, failures and sadnesses and feel we don’t have room to know anyone else’s.

I actually have to muster up physical energy at times now when I dig into someone’s story, whereas when I was younger, it felt effortless.

And I’ve felt ashamed of this. Do I not care about people anymore? What is this wall that has so suddenly grown up between me and humanity? Where did it come from and how do I knock it down?

I’m not sure how, but I am sure how to keep the wall there, strong and steady. Stop getting to know people. Just stop. We could all agree to coexist and walk side by side without facing each other, looking each other in the eye and asking, “how are you?” Because we’ve heard the answer too many times.

If this sounds remotely appealing to you, you’re not alone. I’ve thought this before. Like when I was hiking with a friend this weekend. She’s been divorced for  a few years but I had never asked her much about the details of the divorce. How it felt, how it hurt, how it even happened, logistics wise. I thought about not asking her these things and staying away from the details and safe on the surface, but I mustered the energy somehow and as we walked through tress and crunched branches with our feet, I dug into her story. And the walk felt surprisingly refreshing and the questions came easier as I allowed myself to ask them. And we know each other better now.

Being known is a desire at the core of us all and though only God knows us fully, I believe he gave us the gift of conversation and each other so we could subsist on a taste of being slightly known while here on this earth. To get a glimpse of what being wholly known could be like. And when I think of it this way, the dangers of asking a friend about herself and getting to know her better is still scary, vulnerable and hard work but it becomes worthwhile work. Because I know I’m chipping away at the wall to reveal a path between us, and the path looks a little like eternity.

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Why Life Is Not a Paint-by-Number

paintbynumberStill, well into adulthood, I find myself just wanting to fit in. It’s not in the same way as it was in high school of course. I’m not hoping to be invited to the right party or pretending to smoke a cigarette or claiming my drink in my plastic cup wasn’t water, when it was. This was how I “fit in” as a teen. Today, I want to fit in with a life that follows the appropriate succession of events.

I realized this recently over lunch with a friend. We discussed how each life phase brings its own set of expectations. With college, a degree and a job. With a job, a spouse and a home. With a spouse and home, children. That’s as far as we got because between the two of us, that’s as far as we’ve gotten. But I’m sure the expectations continue as your children grow and your career progresses. And I think we continue to live in a tension pulled on one side by fitting in and on the other side by wanting to be our own person. Rarely can we be both but always, we want both.

We’ve learned life’s paint-by-number. We see the outline; we just don’t always have all the colors to fill it in. This can be irritating and disheartening and depressing and discouraging. We want all the colors.

In about four weeks my little sister will get married to the best guy. It will be beautiful, and I’ll cry “ICan’tBelieveMyLittleSisterHasGrownUp, She’sSoBeautiful, LookAtMyDadGivingHerAway” tears, like I did at my older sister’s wedding. Yet, this has reminded me of a color I haven’t found. Barring a strange act of God, I’m not getting married in four weeks nor in four months. And I’m looking for the instructions for my paint-my-number, and I can’t find them.

Maybe your instructions appear to be missing, too. Maybe something has not happened in your life succession you thought should have by now, or something happened too quickly and you weren’t ready for it and you’re still reeling. This can make us feel out of place. Like we’re doing something wrong. Like we don’t fit in.

Think about the words Paul uses to describe us in his letters: Aliens. Sojourners. Exiles. Strangers. These are the things we were before Christ. The words he uses to describe us after redemption? Citizens. Saints. Members. God’s people. I like “members” best because it can so often feel we’re not a part of the club, and we so often find more comfort in the pieces fitting and the societal norms than we do in our own salvation.

And the sad part is, when we make moves based on these expectations, we forget who we are. We forget the quirks and passions and dreams that make us us and we turn them over to what make us feel a part. We forgot that we already are a part. We forgot that we “are no longer strangers and aliens, but…fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).

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