If you’ve been listening to my podcast or read about my book, you’ve seen the word “unsuitable” pop up more than once. I ask all of my podcast guests to talk about a time they felt unsuitable. Most of them have been very tender and serious, which is cool. The example I give is about going to a black tie wedding in a strapless dress after mowing all morning without sunscreen and giving myself a massive lump/bruise by accidentally slamming myself in the cheek bone with the motor end of a weed-wacker.
Unsuitability is that feeling when you walk into a room and feel out of place. As an awkward and slightly feral farm child, it’s been a common theme. You probably guessed that, as I’ve completely tied my branding thus far to this word. What I’ve learned over the course of my relatively short, but eventful life? This feeling is mostly in my head. It’s based on a real fear and feeling, and even on experience. But it’s learned, and not always accurate to our present moment.
Fear and shame are tied closely to this unsuitable feeling. All of the above prevent us from authentically connecting with those around us. In fact, it might even drive us to the exact wrong people.
Let’s say totally hypothetically that I believe deep down I am quite selfish. Shocking, I know. It’s almost like I’m a human being. Let’s say that I think this is a very bad thing, and so I do everything I can to hide it. I will do anything I can to divert attention from this quality and frantically overcompensate. If anyone needs absolutely anything I am there, even at great personal expense, even if it would be better if I stayed home. The shame of this thing inside of me would cause me to put myself in all sorts of unhealthy positions. It would affect who I date and befriend, and I would probably be much more likely to gravitate towards people who show as little regard for my boundaries as I do.
Oh dear, just like that a very natural and good desire to be not selfish has become a sin in and of itself. Because if I think I’m doing a great job fooling everyone and controlling this thing I see as shameful, I will look down on anyone who I don’t think is trying as hard as I am. It will keep me closed off and I will begin to believe that my worth comes from my ability to hide this thing. It becomes a zero-sum game: either I am selfish, or I am worthy of love. And my isolation only causes me to become more self-obsessed than I was in the first place, just in a more masochistic way. Whoops.
There are always things we can improve upon; don’t mistake my meaning here. We are not perfect as is. We are, however, perfectly loved as is. What a wacko idea. Let me tell you about a couple of ladies who taught me this ridiculous truth.
I spent eleven months in eleven different countries doing mission work. In this time, I was on a team with 4-6 other women, depending on the month. The team changed a few times, but there were three of us who were together all eleven months. They were there when I was on my A game, preaching and teaching and proclaiming and working my butt off. They were also there when I was… ahem… not that. Anxiety attacks, deep dark secrets, dengue fever, not showering, sleeping in a tent, THE HEAT, infatuations with boys who had zero interest in me (This would be a great subtitle for my memoir, Jesus fix it). They were there when I did not have the energy or desire to cover up my less glamorous qualities, things I had been hiding for most of my life, about which I was deeply ashamed. As a perfectionist, I work very hard to keep anything I see as a flaw buried.
You’ll have to wait for my book for the full story here, but trust me these women saw a LOT. And weirdly, they still wanted to be around me. They might have liked me a little more. As friends who were mutually committed to each other, that’s part of the deal. You have to let yourself be seen, and you don’t really get to pick and choose. If you find the right people, it’s actually a pretty cool deal. You’ll be more approachable, more human. People will hear things in you and think, I thought it was just me. This brings us all out of isolation and loneliness.
Of course, we can’t do this with just any old sociopath. Discernment is a beautiful gift, and we’re going to talk about boundaries in the next part of this series. But until then, I’m going to leave you with this exhortation from my main man, Paul.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. -Romans 8:1-4
Speaking of shameless, you like that shameless plug for my podcast and the picture I used? That’s right, y’all. No condemnation. Listen wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe, rate, and review if you would be so kind.