Resentment is a Teacher 

Here’s a quick exercise: 

*Think of someone in your life right now who is really getting on your nerves and/or irritates you. Picture that person in your brain. Got it? That was easy. Now, here’s the hard part: think about what boundary you need to set with him or her. 

The hardest part of adulting is boundaries. I hate them, in fact. I mean, it’s so much easier to just complain about people bugging us, while slowly building up resentment towards them, and maybe even gossiping about them. And gossiping is so much fun, anyways. It’s like, a way to connect with friends, right? Let’s get together and talk about all the people who irritate the heck out of us and how we can’t stand them, but then we’ll be nice to their faces and pretend everything is fine.

Only it’s not fine. Because our resentment continues to build up towards that irritating person or people we have yet to set a boundary with. And so then, we start doing things, like becoming passive aggressive towards him or her. Or snarky. Or confusing. Or we just bottle it up and then gossip about it with our friends, thinking it’s making us feel better, without realizing it’s actually MAKING US FEEL WORSE to complain about a person behind his or her back.

I have spent most of my life believing that if I set boundaries with others, then that made me a b**ch or a meanie or not Christian *** enough. When in reality, that’s all bullcrap. Complete bullcrap. What I didn’t realize is that when I was honest with people, it gave them the opportunity to change, and it also was a way of honoring my truth and integrity. 

I once had a friend who spent years asking me for advice. And I spent years offering it to her. She chose to never take it, or when she did, she ended up telling me how bad the advice was or how “that idea didn’t work for her.” At the time, I was really in the middle of my own crisis, but instead of focusing on healing from that, I was focused on trying to save/help my friend. 

And it became exhausting. And then I was like, “Oh my God, this friend of mine is irritating the crap out of me.” I kept telling others about it and asking them for advice on how to handle her. I was angry and resentful towards her for continuing to suck the energy out of me. But I was actually TURNING INTO HER because I was now doing the SAME, EXACT thing with MY friends. They all told me, “Talk to her about it. Tell her why you feel depleted. Tell her you need to take a break from offering advice. Set a boundary.” 

And I was all like, “Why in the HECK are you TALKING like a crazy person… you think I would actually say that to her face??!! As if! ” 💁🏻

But you guys, here’s the thing. A couple  of my courageous friends basically told me, “You need to either set a boundary with this person or accept her for who she is. That’s your choice. But I’m not going to keep rehashing it with you. It is what it is.”

See what they just did there? They set a boundary with me. And at first I was like, “Fine. Guess I won’t talk to you about how upset I am with this person anymore! Hmph!” But then, after a bit, my ego subsided and I somehow realized what was happening. My friends had called me out on my own bullsh*t.

So after gaining my composure, I called up this friend and told her, “I care about you and I know your situation is not easy. But I can’t give you any more advice right now. I need to get my own crap together. Our friendship is important, and I want to be honest with you. I am still here for you and will continue to hold a space for you in prayer.”

“Lord Jesus, I can’t believe I did that,” I told myself as I hung up the phone. 

And to my surprise, my friend actually understood, even though it was weird at first.  It changed the dynamic of our relationship. I was no longer her psychologist. I was simply her friend. 

And I slowly began to heal myself.  I began to give myself the gift of self care and more time alone, to fill up my own cup so that I could give in love to others. 

*exercise taken from a Brene Brown interview with Chase Jarvis. 

*** and speaking of Christians setting boundaries, did you know that Jesus set boundaries, like, ALL the time in the course of his life? And before you get excited, Mom, thinking I remembered that from Vacation Bible School, I didn’t. I just googled that shit. http://www.soulshepherding.org/1998/07/jesus-set-boundaries/

Go, Jesus! I really like him. He’s been keeping it 💯 since the year zero AD.

Healed People Can Heal People

I once heard the phrase, “Hurting people hurt people.”

Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? Someone who is consistently snarky isn’t a happy, fulfilled person. Instead, he is wearing his snarkiness cape because he doesn’t know what else to do. He’s in pain, and snarkiness is the only way to protect himself. 

Or someone who is consistently speaking badly about others is often doing that to make herself feel better about herself. She has her gossipy cape on to protect her from looking at her own life. 

(I actually have an appreciation for the snarky people and gossipy people in my life. Because they are really teaching me to practice patience and grace.)

So back to my original thought, though: if hurting people hurt people, is it possible that the antithesis of that statement may also be true?

I was in a situation recently where I was having a conversation with three women who are casual acquaintances. One of them revealed quite courageously to us that she was going through a difficult time. She found out her husband had been cheating on her. 

She said, “I told him he had to get his life together. And we had a long conversation last night over text. He said he was willing to do whatever it takes. I know he is, because he can’t survive without me. And he’s just a mess right now. He has anger management issues and even pushed me the other day in anger. But I finally put my foot down and told him he can’t come home until he agrees to get help.”

And then the other women in the conversation were nodding their heads in agreement, making “you go girl!” statements and telling her how strong she was.

I couldn’t get a “you go, girl” statement out, because my feelings weren’t feeling very go girlish. I felt the strangest mix of guilt and empathy and shame at the same time. Because I used to be that woman. Her story sounded like mine. My tears were slowly filling up my eyeballs and I was trying hard not to blink so they wouldn’t fall, but I finally had to blink. 

And so they fell. 

And someone noticed and asked, “Are you okay?”

Crap. 

“Yes, I’m okay,” I said. “I’m just processing everything you said. You said a lot, my dear. You really are going through a hard time. How are you?”

But she didn’t hear my words at first and she kept talking about her husband and how he was “messed up.”

“Okay,” I said. “But how are you?”

And she didn’t know how to answer me, really, because she was just in survival mode.

Everyone was suddenly looking at me again, since tears were still coming down from my eyes. So I said, “I’m really sad for you right now.  I know I don’t know you well, and I am trying to be really careful to not ‘project’ my past onto your present. I need to say, though, that it’s not okay for your husband to push you. Like that’s really not okay,” I said, as my tears kept flowing. 

She nodded. And I said, “And you deserve so much happiness. You deserve peace.” 

I started to tell her snippets of my story

She sat down. She listened. She looked at me like this emoji 😳 and this emoji 😧 and this emoji 😪. 

I have had darkness in my life. And I really don’t like to walk around thinking and talking about it, because I am SO happy most of the time. And I am SO grateful that my life is good. 

But if my darkness and your darkness can help another person to heal…then there is great power in that. If I embrace “the dark matter,” (as pastor Rob Bell calls it), and I join with someone else in his or her dark matter–there is actually new life in that. 

If hurting people hurt people, then it makes sense to also believe that healed people can help to heal people.

Sometimes we can’t make sense of the dark matter when we are in it. But as we continue to push forward in time, our dark matter shapes us and can actually create new life. 

I still can’t wrap my brain around it completely. But I know that embracing our past instead of running from it is a powerful thing.