The WORST is…not that bad. Really.

I have had this fear for years.

It started in junior high, when bible studies became A Thing, and kids who spoke up and got a round of nods or “mhms” or (even better) an “MHMMM TOTALLY” from the group leader, were so totally cool. People who prayed prayers people liked—not too long, not too many pauses, references that made you chuckle, a tidy tie in of the discussion, etc.—also had a special place in the hierarchy, but that’s a tale for another rant time. Putting two and two together, and being a raging introvert, I quickly deduced that if I didn’t have a fully baked, concise thought, I probably shouldn’t open my mouth. Speaking aloud became this giant monstrosity that had to be done, or I wasn’t engaging, yet my comments had to be pithy, intelligent, authentic—or what sounded close to it in the early 2000s and by the measurement of other teenagers. This led to a decade of butterflies and shaking hands every time I felt that ‘tug’ to say something in bible study or a group of people, in any context.

Yeah. I had a problem.

And, of course, getting older just made this fear more subtle. I was better at voicing my thoughts, but the underlying terror became nuanced: “What if what I’m saying is spiritually false? What if I’m committing heresy in some small way? And, worse, what if someone says something? What if they shared that passage to convict meee? What if I make a suggestion about how to live, and look like a hypocrite because I can’t do it myself? What if someone here has the gift of prophesy like the guy from that story that one time and dumps my spiritual laundry all over the church carpet?!”

Oh, you need a specific example? I thought you’d never ask.

I once overheard a story of this little girl who would randomly avoid certain teens and adults at her church; they were active members of the body, too. When asked why, she simply said (a la Divine Child Archetype), “They don’t have the Light in their faces.”

As in, God’s light wasn’t in them. Perfect.

I became terrified that some beautiful, precocious little child would point at me one day and say that I didn’t have the Light in my face. I am not even kidding.

It’s not hard to see why I have often felt like I need to study the bible and pray for a while, just to garner the courage to go to bible study. To be honest, I went through this a couple hours ago. But the last few months of choosing trying to believe that I am truly Free kicked in, in an unexpected way. I began to rabbit trail, spiraling into fearful thoughts that I’d said something wrong, and seriously considered texting a friend, to make sure I wasn’t crazy—or that I was. Then I stopped. And I thought, “So what?”

So what if I just said something mildly heretical, revealed an ugly part of myself, looked like a hypocrite or am 1000% sure that that passage so-and-so shared had my name all over it? If I’m wrong, it gives someone the chance to speak up. If I’ve shown a bit of my ugly, it frees someone else up to show theirs. If I was acting like a hypocrite, lucky me—I’ve just been humbled in a crash and burn sort of way. If they shared that passage to remind me that I’m not always right, got carried away with my own ideas, forgot that I’m talking to people with feelings and to generally remind me that I am human, GOOD.

Because I am human.

My point is, and I hope this encourages someone out there, even if the worst is true in these situations, it’s just not that bad. You don’t have to curate every word, or fear judgment if what you said doesn’t come out right. The worst that will happen is someone will misunderstand, fail to ask for clarification and come to some incorrect conclusions about you. But, for the most part, saying what you think just gives other people an opportunity to really see you, and you to see them. To connect in a real way.

I’ve been finding that I have a lot of fluff, a lot of canned responses that keep people happy and don’t reveal too much. I’ve been trying to get rid of that fluff. It’s been disorienting and uncomfortable, and I feel much smaller. But the tiny bit of me that remains is real—like a bead of iron or steel.

I often think of that scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, when the visitors can’t walk on the grass because they’re not solid enough. I honestly believe that you become more solid to other people when you share your thoughts, even if they turn out to be misled or incomplete. Only then can you actually find one another and have the chance to grow, because you are each sharing a bit of yourself. A little teaspoon of realness.

I want to be solid. I want to be real. Whatever it takes.

10 thoughts on “The WORST is…not that bad. Really.

    1. Good morning Ashley. I enjoyed reading your candid thoughts. Bless you for your honest sharing. One of our daughters has been on a similar journey. The funny thing is that, I as an extrovert, will have a little judge on my shoulder who second guesses what I have said when the day is over and I am reviewing the day before dropping off to sleep. As an extrovert I can say too much. “With many words comes transgression” the good Book says. So, each of us has our challenges as we walk this earth. One day we will be perfect. Awesome! Have a good day or better yet let’s make it a good day by loving others and walking in the light. And if God opens a door telling and showing others the love of God in Christ.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi David! Thanks for your thoughtful comment. YES, I imagine that everyone has some version of that judging voice on their shoulder. And thanks for the reminder that, learning to not care must happen in conjunction with loving others and submitting myself to Christ. I could easily become a bit of a tyrant with my freedom! 🙂

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  1. Awesome post, woman! I too experienced many of the same things in youth groups and bible studies. I found myself nodding empathically at several points.

    Yup, the goal is to just not care what others think. I too was once extremely shy until one day I got out into the actual world on my own and realized: I have two feet to stand on, a rational mind, and thus no excuse to be afraid of others. I’m still in progress but hey – all of us are 😛

    Also, the herd doesn’t like the person who stands out. “The nail that stands up gets hammered down” – or the small-minded people will try to bring those who make something of themselves down to their level. When we become oriented towards others and tow the line, we fade into the background. We’re a zebra. When we develop ourselves, it might ruffle some feathers and make people uncomfortable at first but ultimately we’ll be noticed for who we actually are. You’ll gather around you the people who like you for YOU. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, Jordan!! Thank you for that reminder of the greater context of reasonably not worrying about what others think. I love that–“I have two feet to stand on, a rational mind, and thus no excuse to be afraid of others.” And that last bit about finding people who like the true you–which is only possible if you reveal the true you. So empowering and just plain ol’ TRUTH!

      Also, Christian subculture is its own animal; I’m glad that I wasn’t alone in my experience of it 🙂

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  2. I’ve wasted way too much time worrying about maintaining others good opinion of me. And it’s exhausting always grooming my comments before saying a peep. Much better to remember that I am as not-put-together as any sinner, that I am as selfish as the rest, and that God still loves and accepts me. It is through his grace that others love me too.

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  3. When I’m reading books and I come accross a passage that stirs my heart (a la Lewis’s concept of Joy), I put a little circle in the margin.

    I want to put a little circle in the margin of the ‘realness’ section.

    Liked by 1 person

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