Saturday, November 2, 2013

Do You Talk About Me Behind My Back? (and other questions that creep in when love is left unexpressed)

On Halloween Eve, our kid's school had a "Monster Mash" Halloween costume party.  Our kids were so excited to attend, so we loaded up the 6 of us and headed to the school for a night of chaos, I mean, fun.  ;)  We walked in the door, the music was thumpin, the decorations were awesome... it was a rockin party!  All of a sudden, 3 little girls walked up to Taylor (our 7 year old) and said, "Hi Taylor!" They were  friendly and excited to be there.  I saw Taylor cross her arms in front of her and say, "Hi" in return, but with a bit of hesitation.  She was guarded.  She smiled at them, but you could tell she felt insecure.  Her body language and "vibe" was so loud, I could almost hear inside her mind... Do you really like me?  Do you want to be my friend?  Is my costume cool enough?  Am I accepted?  Will you talk about me behind my back when you walk away?  My heart broke for my sweet girl who for some reason felt so insecure.  The girls fluttered away and our family continued to walk further into the room.  All of a sudden, Morgan (our 2 year old) hopped out of her stroller and ran over to a group of about 5 little girls.  They were obviously little siblings of school aged kids - just like her.  They were dressed in princess costumes and Morgan was enthralled.  She "oohed" and "ahhhed" over Ariel shoes and Cinderella gloves.  She then grabbed hands with a couple of the girls and they all began to dance together in a circle.  No one knew who Morgan was.  She didn't know who they were.  But no one cared.  She had decided they were awesome and that a friendship was in order.  So they laughed and danced and held hands.  Complete strangers with zero inhibitions.  No insecurities.  No concept of what that would even mean.  I couldn't help but compare my 2 daughters in that moment.  What had happened?  What happened between age 2 and age 7?  And why, at the age of 35, am I resonating more with my 7 year old...and longing to feel the carefree courage of my 2 year old?

There is something so beautiful about a young child.  Something so free.  Young children don't see handicaps, color differences, size, financial status... They just see human beings.  What a breath of fresh air.  I remember when our son Jackson was about 3 years old, we took him to a Christmas event at a community center in San Diego.  Our dear friend Ken was going to be helicoptered in to the event, dressed as Santa, delivering goodies to all the kids.  Ken is African American and I will never forget when he descended from the helicopter and Jackson ran toward him.  "Santa!" Jackson yelled and ran into his arms.  Ken hugged him and said, "Hi Jackson!" - our son was beaming.  Jackson then ran to Jon and I and said, "That is so weird!" he exclaimed.  "How in the world did Santa know my name??  He really is amazing!"  Jon and I just had to laugh.  Here we thought Jackson was about to ask why Santa looked different than the one he just saw at the mall.  Nope!  He hadn't even noticed.  He just couldn't believe Santa actually knew his name.  I love that!

So we have these pure young souls who just want to play, love, laugh, and be.  And then there's the rest of us.  We still want to play and love and laugh and be.  Except we can't.  Because, well, what if someone laughs at us?  What if they don't want to be around us?  What if they judge us?  What if they talk about us?  What if they reject us?  Ah, there it is.  I realize that the thing Taylor has experienced that Morgan has not, is rejection.  Taylor has felt the sting of rejection that we all have.  So she hesitates to trust.  Hesitates to believe the good.  Hesitates to engage.  I know that feeling.  I even know that feeling at school.  Does that other mom really like me?  Does she think I'm a bad mom?  Does that mom talk about me when I walk away?  These feelings and insecurities hold me back from engaging with others at the level that I should.  And those emotions also held Taylor back that night, from engaging at the level she should.

When someone hurts you or betrays you, of course it is healthy to create boundaries with that person.  We can forgive, but trust is something different.  Trust comes back over time - after a track record has been established.  My mom used to tell me when I was a teenager, "If you crash the car, I will absolutely forgive you.  But I'm not going to hand you the car keys again right away."  Trust takes time.  There are some people who are pained by the hurt they have caused - they are remorseful and desire a reconciled relationship.  The trust comes easily back.  Then there are others who are just careless people in general.  They are reckless with their words and their behavior.  And so creating boundaries with that person and that relationship is very appropriate.  Healthy boundaries are necessary.

However, the rub comes when we encounter loving, healthy people, and find ourselves guarded.  Those people haven't hurt us.  They just want to know us and connect with us.  But for some reason we can't compartmentalize the hurt from that past relationship.  So we fold our arms, stand at a distance, keep others at bay. We've been hurt in the past.  So we hold a bit of ourselves back the next time around, just to make sure we can't get hurt again.  Painful, brutal cycles that get harder and harder to break.  And in the end, the only one getting robbed is us.  We miss out on deeper friendships. We miss out on uninhibited fun and laughter.  We miss out on being known.

After Jon's surgery and about a week into his hospital stay, he began to take account of different areas in his life.  When you are faced with something that threatens to take your life, or at least something that messes with your life enough to shake things up significantly, you start to evaluate.  Your relationships... your priorities..  He said to me, "I don't want my love for anyone to go unexpressed.  I don't want anyone to ever wonder where they stand with me.  I want to be generous with my love and make sure others know how I feel."  As I think about all these insecurities we have and the walls we put up in our friendships, I think that very statement might be a huge key to breaking that cycle.  You see, there is no way to get answers from every person for those deep seeded questions:  Do you really like me?  Do you gossip about me?  Do you judge me?  But what we CAN do, is answer that question for others.  We can be the catalyst for affirming the good.  Let no love go unexpressed.  Verbalize gratitude.  So often, we assume people know how we feel.  We assume they know that we like them.  How much we appreciate them.  How much we value their friendship.  But when left unexpressed, we leave margin for second guessing.  We leave space for assumption.  And when we assume something, we typically tend to assume the worst, right?  Our insecurities trump believing the best.  How cool would it be for me to love generously, and for the people in my life to know that?  When someone knows you love them, they act different.  Their guard comes down. They love more extravagantly.  They care deeper.  They trust more.  They engage with less hesitation.  Fewer walls.  And when someone does those things, I can't help but believe it would perpetuate that for me.  And for you. It begins to break the cycle.  All because love was expressed.  And sometimes, it's not that you didn't feel the love before. It's just that when you express it, no one has to wonder.  No one has to guess.  They can just sit in the good. Rest in the new found security.

I believe this is the rule, not the exception - although the exception does exist.  Like I said before, there are people in your life who have betrayed trust.  Hurt intentionally and unapologetically.  But I believe in this huge, vast world we live in, Good is so prevalent.  And those who haphazardly cause pain are far less common than those who truly desire to love and be loved.  So the opportunity to let other in, is there for all of us.  The opportunity to express love is ever present.  We just have to be the courageous one to make the first step.  Say it first.  If you're married, you know how this goes: He says, "If she respected me, I would love her!" and she says, "If he loved me, I would respect him!"  The vicious cycle that kills many marriages.  At some point, someone has to make the first move or else the marriage is stuck forever.  At some point, one person has to act first.  And once the "silence" has been broken, a beautiful new cycle begins.  One of loving, and respecting, and serving, and giving.  No walls.  No guarded hearts.  Just generous lovers.

This is what I want to encourage my sweet Taylor toward in her friendships.  It's what I want to lean into in my relationships.  It's where 2 year old Morgan lives right now.  "Oooo!  Your dress is so pretty!!  Hold my hand!  Let's dance!"  Beautiful.   It's what Jon is journeying toward post surgery.  He came to my community group this past week - a group of 40 young moms from our community.  He thanked them and even cried in gratitude in front of them.  They don't wonder if he appreciates them.  They don't wonder where they stand with him.

We can't change the past.  We can't undo the relational hurt we've experienced. But we can move forward toward healthier, deeper relationships.  We can uncross our arms.  We can lean in.  And the more we do, the more we will feel freedom.  Freedom to be ourselves.  Freedom to believe the best.  Freedom to love and be loved.  Freedom to know true community.  This expression of relationship is so beautiful.  So healing.  So right.

Let's say it.  Let's express it.  Let's live it. Let's show it.
And then let's hold hands.   Believe the best.  And dance.


  1. This post speaks to where I am right now, and I just want to say thank you for sharing.

  2. Deanna, you don't know me but you know my brother & sister-in-law (Del & Chris Davenport). Chris passed along your blog and story by way of a prayer request for Jon and I have had my prayer team praying for him since. Every so often, I check the blog to see how he's doing and update the team. Yesterday, when I saw this post, I knew I had to read it. You touched on so many things that are wreaking havoc with my emotions these days and I know you spoke truth from the Lord. Thank you for your honesty and candor, and for your obedience to share with others what God is teaching you. This girl all the way over in Alabama was blessed by it!

  3. I just caught up on a few posts...thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for sharing so honestly and openly! Thank you for the encouragement!