I’m not sure when it started. Maybe junior high. Maybe sooner. I suppose it was gradual. I remember being very content…alone. I had no problem being alone. I loved to read, write silly stories, and draw maps of the neighborhood to ride my bike around. I was a loner in every sense of the word and I wasn’t unhappy about it. I really didn’t know any different anyway.
Somehow, people crept into my life; my space. At first it was flattering and fun…until…we disagreed; we hurt each other; we recognized our differences; we forgot our manners. And it was no longer fun to be friends. I wanted to be alone again – safe and silent with nothing more than my straight A’s, my library books, and my yellow stirrup pants with blue patterned shirt.
I soon learned that aloneness was never going to be a reality again. I had to find a way to protect myself from the bullies, though, because, after all, I was quite an easy target and everyone, everyone knew it.
So that’s when it started, I guess. That’s when I learned how to outwardly smile and inwardly cry. That’s when I learned how to curl my hair and cover my heart. That’s when I learned how to match my clothes and malign my mirror. I slowly stopped seeing myself. The more I started caring what other people saw, the more I stopped caring what other people saw. I was safe because I was pretty. I was strong because I was smart. And no one was going to tell me I wasn’t because pretty + smart = tough.
I’ve learned a few lessons since then and I’m trying not so successfully to overcome the self-absorbed stereotype pretty primped Barbie has branded me with, but it’s just not that easy. Because there’s nothing wrong with being pretty. There’s nothing wrong with being alone or well-read or purposefully unmatching. There’s nothing wrong with analyzing the neighborhoods God has called me to live in. It really is ok to be me – black and white with a tight schedule, a matching dress, and a pair of running shoes to change right after.
What is not ok is my lack of concern for how others perceive my personality. What’s rancid is my concern for how others perceive my personality. What’s ugly is my lack of empathy for those I alienate by my practically perfect persona. It’s pride, it’s self-protective, and, as Paul would say, it’s purifying refuge.
I just want to be like Anna in Disney’s Frozen. I want to believe the best when things look the worst. I want to be other-protective instead of self-protective. I want to be purposeful, polite, positive, and practical. I’m not there yet. Some days I feel like a paper doll even more than a Barbie doll. I don’t know which is worse. But God can change that, too.
That said, I want also to remind myself that both John the loner and Jesus the genial were wholly rejected by fakes and it had far more to do with who the posers really were than with John and Jesus’ personalities.
“Because they were resolved not to believe Christ and John, and to own them, as they ought to have done, for the best of men, they set themselves to abuse them, and to represent them as the worst.” ~Matthew Henry
Pray for me, friends. Help me see that it matters how others view me. Help me see that it does not matter how others view me. Pray that I might learn how to reconcile the two in Christ. Imago dei.
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” ~Matthew 11:18-19