I was having a discussion with my friend the other day about why, when I say what I feel I need (or want, for that matter), I get an awful pain in my gut and heart. His response was: “I am guessing you don’t say that much (what I feel I need or want) because you feel you need to do or be something to someone to be loved.” His comment made me think a lot about my restless search for significance.
It actually brought up an old struggle I’ve had in my thinking for years. We raised our family in a conservative church, and the idea of selfless giving was at the forefront of our Sunday School studies, sermons, etc. I began to feel if my “left hand knew what my right hand was doing” (to quote scripture that I’m too lazy to go look up for a reference right this second), then any kindness I “committed” didn’t count.
I remember trying to give someone a Bible without her knowing who had given it to her. I left it on her porch when she wasn’t home. She did figure it out, however, and part of me thought that made the gift “null and void” somehow. And for some reason I began to be suspect of every good thing I did for someone. Did I do these things because I really wanted to help, or because I wanted the person to like me? Because I wanted to feel good about myself, significant in some way? Was I running my friend Linda’s girls to dance every week just to help out because she had a daycare business in her home and couldn’t leave to get the girls there, or did I want her to think I was this great, selfless person for doing so?
Years later after we moved to a different church because our old one was tired and decided to close, I came to have a clearer understanding of why a person would do something nice for someone. I realized it’s ok to feel good about what you may have done. Is that part of the incentive? Am I a “feel-good junkie?” I could just as easily be a control freak!
But what my friend said to me the other day was also very true. And it made me wonder if that was a learned behavior on my part. Somewhere along the line when I was young, did I learn that if you wanted someone to like or love you, you had to do something for them? Perform for them perhaps? I’m guessing the answer is yes.
One of the strongest memories I have of this sort of thing is from my senior year in high school. My relationship with my mom, which I’ve talked about on here, was not the best. I think we were just too much alike! I had come home the last day of my senior year with a beautiful trophy for having been chosen Outstanding Business Student of the Year. Before I even made it to the house my mom was out the door, down the driveway, and throwing her arms around me. It left me in shock. I couldn’t remember the last time she had even hugged me. I think it was cemented in my mind that day that being successful was the way to earn her love.
So the question I’m left with, as I’m working through a journal called The Castle of the Pearl by Christopher Biffle, is how do I undo that behavior, that idea of having to earn someone’s love? This is a big one for me, and obviously has a lot to do with my struggles with God the past many years, because as a believer I realize that no matter WHAT I do, I can’t earn that love. It’s given freely. Percy and I have talked a lot about it as we’ve continued our journey this weekend.
I guess what I’m wondering, too, is if any of YOU guys struggle with feeling that way?