Hi, my name is Sarah. And I'm addicted to making everyone like me.
Some women have a strong personality. They like to take charge, and they like to boss other people around. If an opinion is needed, theirs is readily available. Always. And it typically would involve what you've done wrong, and how their own idea is superior and would solve all your issues. These women are often branded as 'controlling.'
That is not really my style.
I hate to take charge. And if you really need me to have an opinion on the subject, I have to sit quietly for several minutes and ask myself to actively form an opinion. And even still, I will often happily give my opinion up if you challenge it. I'm often found saying things like, 'I don't really care; what do you want?'
And yet, I'm just as controlling.
I spend alot of my time not offering an opinion. Not having a preference. Wearing a smile on my face, and trying to make everyone happy with me. I agree often. I listen and ask questions 100% more than I talk. I hide what I want, what I think, how I feel, and my opinions, and I acquiese to everyone around me. But I often don't do those things out of love. It looks nice, but the motivation behind it is often not nice. It's actually controlling. It's doing nice things, and being nice, for a reason...with an ulterior motive. I do it because I'm trying to protect myself. I don't want to be hurt. And I want people to like me...because I feel that if they like me, I'll be safe. I'll be secure.
People don't try to control just for fun; they have a reason for pushing their agenda. And whether I'm doing it quietly or loudly, with a dominant face on or an acquiescent one, most controlling is all for the end of feeling safe and secure.
It all looks so very kind and nice, the way I go about it, but what I'm really trying to do is to create a safe and secure place for myself. A place where no one will dislike me, where no one will hurt me. I'm trying to save myself from the pain of this world.
Sometimes people use 'kind and nice' to achieve the same goal as 'loud and bossy': safety and security.
Loving things done with a hidden motivation of loving and saving myself is not love. Kind things done with a hidden motivation of loving and saving myself are not kind.
As I've been realizing how controlling my nice-looking tendencies are, my husband has been trying to help me learn to counteract them. He's been helping me to do something that's completely opposite for me:
to speak up.
Speaking up is really hard me, especially when I've spent my life blending in to other's opinions, hiding, and trying not to be really seen but just to be liked. And it's also hard to speak up when I've learned that I'll be most safe and most secure when I don't speak up.
Speaking up entails offering myself: what I think, what I want, my opinions, my experiences. To go out on a scary limb and risk others seeing me, judging me, or not liking me. To not spend my energy trying to save myself from pain, but to just honestly offer who I am.
Here's how it all went down within our marriage even last night.
My side of the family is around for a few weeks this summer, and Caleb and I were needing to decide if he was going to take time off of work to be with them. I wanted him to, but I knew he kind of didn't want to because he had so much work to do, so I was unwilling to admit my desire. I didn't want to take the risk of having an opinion. So I presented the options to him, "This is what we're doing next week; you can either take off or keep working; I don't really care either way."
First of all, not honest. Second of all, trying to save myself from the vulnerability of stating my opinion. I was trying to save myself from pain: I was offering what seemed like 'nice,' that I didn't care if he took off work or didn't take off work. But what I was really doing was, even though I wanted him to take off, I was pretending I didn't care so that I wouldn't be taking a risk of saying what I wanted. I was manipulating the situation. If I took the risk and said that I wanted him to take off work, then I might be unsafe and get hurt: he might not want to take off of work, but would do it anyway for me, but he might be angry at me for making him do something he didn't want to do. And if he was angry at me, then I would feel unsafe. Someone didn't like me, didn't like what I did. Scary and unsafe.
It's all so under the surface and nuanced. It's not outright, and it seems kind of nice, so it's hard to spot. But it's controlling because I'm not tinking about my husband Caleb at all. I'm just thinking about me, and how to save myself from pain.
It's not my job to try to make sure Caleb likes my idea. It's not my job to make sure he won't get angry at my desires. It's my job to be myself, to offer what I want, what I think, my opinions. It's not my job to control the situation.
And do you know what else is my job? After I share my opinion? This is HUGE job. My job is then to hide myself in the Lord.
If Caleb is angry with my desire, if he doesn't want to take off work, and he's angry that I do want him to, I need to tell him what I want and then hide myself in the Lord. Find my safety, find my security in the Lord. His love, His delight in me, His happiness with me, His arms around me need to be my safe spot. Not people's happiness with me.
And if Caleb goes along with my desire, if he does what I want him to do, then I still need to hide myself in the Lord. Because then I could tend to worry that he doesn't really want to do it, he's just doing it for me...and somehow that doesn't feel safe to me either. If he's just doing something because I want it...and so I must hide myself in God's love for me, root myself in His opinion of me. It's so safe in the Lord's love because His love for me never, ever changes. No matter what I do.
So this is what Caleb told me to say:
"I'm really enjoying being around my family.
And it's even more enjoyable for me if you are around.
I'd love it if you could take off of work next week.
What are your thoughts?"
Honest. Open. Vulnerable. Not-manipulative. Not trying to save myself from anything. Offering myself. Speaking up.