Authentic Responsibility #12: I am responsible for letting others know how I feel and what I think, instead of requiring them to read my mind.
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I knew something wasn’t right with me, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. I was really feeling disgusting and hating everyone, and my newest BFF was feeling the brunt of it. He couldn’t do anything right, every decision he made got on my nerves, and I basically was being a jerk. But I hadn’t talked to him—or anyone else—about what was going on with me, so he basically was just left to wonder. Besides, I reasoned: he should just know. He should know that I don’t feel good and that this is just a bad time for me. But he didn’t figure out my issue. And what exactly was my issue? PMS. Eventually as the week wore on, I admitted to him that I wasn’t feeling my best and I identified the culprit. “When it comes to that, you have to just tell me!” he insisted. He was right: I shouldn’t have expected him to read my mind and know my issue.
Authentic responsibility #12 is a timely reminder for me that people do not just automatically KNOW what I am thinking or feeling, and that I need to communicate with them and not be angry when they don’t read my mind. This authentic responsibility has “women” written all over it—but everyone does this! And here are a couple of ways that we can all stop expecting telepathy and start experiencing reality:
Be willing to say “I don’t know.” Truth be told, I didn’t know right away that I was experiencing PMS. I didn’t know what was up with me. But instead of admitting that I didn’t know, I said nothing at all. Saying “I don’t know” is its own authentic responsibility, but to refresh your memory: if you don’t know how you feel or what you think, then admit it! Sometimes we need time to figure out our thoughts and feelings on things, and that is normal. So say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” and then re-open the conversation once you have figured it out.
Be honest with yourself, then others. Examine your feelings to find any underlying emotion (sometimes, anger can be a secondary emotion) or issue that needs to be addressed. Once I took the time to scrutinize my feelings and my calendar, I realized what the exact issue was. Dwelling on my feelings of anger and dissatisfaction did nothing to help the situation; they intensified my negative feelings and made the situation difficult for my friends and family. However, when I took time to be honest with myself and then others, I was able to pinpoint the issue and clearly communicate my feelings, thoughts, and needs.
Be prepared for varied responses. Some people and situations will gladly welcome honesty about your feelings and thoughts. My friend was very glad to know that there was a reason behind my change in personality, and he asks for that honesty. Sometimes, however, people are not used to honesty or ready for it, and they will balk when they receive it. Know what you will say if they are accepting and if they are rejecting, if they are supportive or if they are uncooperative. But be wary of allowing others’ opinions and reactions to define you or your desire to communicate more effectively.
Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way, But the foolishness of fools is deceit.” Be wise: seek to understand your ways and communicate to others without expecting them to read your mind, and you will find less strife awaits you!
How difficult is it for you to let others know how you feel and think?
A few years ago, I had a crush on a colleague of mine named Ed. (That’s his real name—he deserves credit for this one.) Ed and I were both student ministers serving at different churches, and I had no idea what to do about my crush. If you know any prophets, you know that prophets HAVE to tell people where they stand with them. So in true pushy prophet girl nature, I sent him a birthday card (it was NOT his birthday—humor) in which I let him know I had a crush on him.
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Ed sent me an e-mail in return that was quite simply the sweetest rejection I had ever received. In it, he noted that he had been in my situation before, and he wanted to be as grace-filled as possible in letting me down. He also promised that there would be no weirdness between us as friends. I was disappointed, but I don’t even remember if I cried: what I remembered was that I felt accepted and I felt grace, even in the midst of being rejected.
Thinking about all the rejection that I’ve personally faced is tough, but that one grace-filled acceptance reminded me of three keys to handling rejection—whether you’re on the giving end or the receiving end:
Remember that rejection is not always personal. In my story, Ed was in a new relationship that he wanted to see through. (FYI: that relationship became his marriage.) Sometimes, it’s not the circumstance for you. But remember my previous blog about God accepting you? Well, He also knows what’s best for you and has plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). And that job, that person, or that circumstance may not be what is best for you now, but God knows what is and He is saving you for that.
Weave grace and acceptance into rejection. The way Ed handled me was filled with grace and acceptance. Why? Because he had been in the same situation before. We have all been rejected in our lives, and we know the pain it can cause. So if we want to be emotionally mature adults, we should strive not to cause that kind of pain but instead to deliver acceptance and compassion to others (Ephesians 4:31-32). So remember rejection feels like and aim to improve the experience by asking God for His compassion to help you—whether you’re giving or receiving it. Pay acceptance and compassion forward.
Use both rejection and acceptance to grow and move forward. In my case, I was not ready for an Ed (a boyfriend). I looked at myself and began to see ways that I could improve my communication, my emotional health, and a number of things that God needed to work on in me. So is there something you could improve about yourself? There is a God who accepts you, just as you are, but He doesn’t want to leave you that way. Truly accepted people become truly accepting people (Cloud and Townsend), and we should keep growing in Christ to build up ourselves and His church (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Experiencing rejection can be a time for growth, but it can also be a time to experience grace and acceptance. In fact, choose to make acceptance the norm in the midst of rejection. You can say no and deny others when necessary, but the challenge is, can you do it with grace and compassion?
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The earliest memory I have is one that I have relived many times. I am standing at the front door—no more than five years old—where my dad has come to get my sister to spend time with her. The problem: I am his daughter, too, but he doesn’t acknowledge that and leaves me behind. It was not the first time, nor was it the last time, that I felt rejection. That one moment, seemingly stuck forever in my mind, flavored the way I looked at the world and how accepted I felt—by others and by myself. I learned far too early to reject others before they could reject me—and I have spent most of my life fighting a spirit of rejection.
Rejection is a regular occurrence in our lives today. It is easy to feel rejected by the myriad of social media actions that create false acceptance in our lives. Did someone “retweet” you? How many “likes” did your status update receive? Did that person “love” your picture? Did someone “pin” your story on their board? If not, does that affect how you feel about yourself? Do you then try even harder to get acceptance through these false mediums?
Surely God shakes His head over humanity and our deep misunderstanding of what acceptance truly is. He has told us in “eternal ink” where our acceptance should come from and how we can get it. To change our mindset and feelings about being rejected, we must know what His Word says about it:
God will never reject you. Psalm 27:10 says “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.” It does not matter how many humans have rejected you and in what way they have done it. God will take you in and He will not forsake you, reject you, or throw you away—no matter what you have done.
God chose you. It is more than just NOT being rejected—the truth is that you are accepted and chosen by God (John 15:16; 1 Peter 2:9). Though there are different theologies behind the term “chosen,” this simply means that God has always wanted you. From the beginning of time, He chose you and desired you and wanted a relationship with you. Think about that for a moment: the God and Creator of the entire universe chose you personally to be His beloved. And God does not make mistakes. Shouldn’t walking in that reality change how you view the rejection or acceptance of others? (Yes, it should!)
God appointed you. He did not just choose us and leave us. He then appointed us, calling us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). He appointed us to be His spokesmen to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5). He appointed us to bear fruit that would last so that whatever we ask in His name, we will receive (John 15:16). These amazing truths tell us that God wants us so much, He has special assignments for us. No human acceptance could ever compete with this glorious truth.
Even today, I struggle with remembering that other people’s rejection of me is not what matters; what matters is how God feels about me. And though I sometimes struggle, I remind myself–and that little girl–that God loves me and is constantly pursuing me, and that He is the only One who will never reject me and always accepts me—just as I am.
What are some Bible verses that help you overcome feelings of rejection?
I am not sure when it started. Likely, it began when I sought out a “safe” place to go when my sister was out of control or when I was hurt from an interaction with someone. Whatever the reason, I would retreat into my special place of solitude and happiness: I would daydream.
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Some of the daydreams were simply of the future: what I would become, how I would handle this situation or that, who I would have in my life—and these were characteristic of my younger years. It was not long after I hit double digits in age, though, that my daydreams became sexually explicit in nature as I fantasized about a man who would love me and care for me. It was just a daydream, I reasoned. There was no reason to worry, no sin in dreaming, and no motivation to stop. I was not hurting anyone. However, I did not realize at the time that I had built a stronghold in my mind.
Google defines a stronghold as, “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack.” It also is defined as “a fortress or a place of security or refuge.” In my case, the daydreams and fantasies in my mind were places of security or refuge for me—a place for me to seek safety and shelter when I felt I might be attacked or hurt. What I did not understand was that God Himself wanted to be my fortress, the place where I ran for safety when I felt scared.
Throughout the last six years, I have made great strides towards renewing my mind and making God my fortress. Here are a couple of sledgehammers to help you begin breaking down any strongholds you may have in your mind:
Accept that you have strongholds in your mind. If you do not believe that you have them, you will not be able to fight them. Your strongholds may look different from mine: maybe you try to control situations by planning them out in your mind before they happen. Maybe you retreat into your mind when you are around unsafe people. Maybe your mind stronghold says you need a drink to help deal with a situation. Whatever your stronghold, accept that you have it, and take it to the Lord in prayer.
Acknowledge that only Jesus can give you the power to overcome strongholds.
2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” We are fighting against more than simply our flesh, which means we will need more than our own desires to break down these strongholds. The great news is that if we admit that we are weak and need Him, Jesus will come running to be our divine power.
Admit your strongholds to a friend. I have had many accountability partners throughout the years, and that was a great step in helping me overcome some of the strongholds in my mind. Admitting my “stuff” to someone else was very difficult—our pride says no one wants to hear about our sins, and that no one else struggles with these things. However, the Bible assures us that when we admit our struggles to others and pray for each other, we can be healed (James 5:16). That healing from the Lord comes in many different forms, including acceptance from others.
We all have strongholds in our mind, but God is faithful and just to begin tearing them down—if only we will start with acceptance.
What are some ways you have broken down strongholds in your mind?
I am frazzled. Since September 1, 2013, I have woken at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. most mornings and struggled with making it through each day on 6 hours or less of sleep. I know why it is happening—I am called to be an intercessor and night watchman—but honestly, I just want to sleep. I have asked everyone I know to pray that I would start sleeping through the night. I began taking Benadryl to help me fall asleep and stay asleep. In my mind, I was the victim of a sick, horrible joke because those who know me know that sleep is one of the most important things to me. (I usually average 8-9 hours a night.) I’m not just frazzled; I’m frustrated.
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There I am, caught in a mind trap. Satan has snuck into my head and told me one small little lie: that I need sleep more than I need to obey the Lord. You may not think wanting more sleep is a mind trap or a lie, but there it is, plain as day: disobedience disguised as a need. God had asked me to do some important work, and I was incensed, believing that I would be of better use to him if I had eight to nine hours of sleep instead of if I simply obeyed Him. Because of this, I launched into action against the very thing that God was asking of me.
In living this out over the last few weeks, I have realized that there two important factors to remember about what Joyce Meyer calls the battlefield of the mind:
It’s not just what you think, it’s how you think. Sometimes we believe that as long as we aren’t thinking BAD things, it’s okay. As long as I am not thinking about cheating on my spouse, it’s okay. As long as I am not thinking angry thoughts about my boss, it’s okay. But therein is the lie. We must replace those bad thoughts with positive thoughts. The Bible instructs us to think about things that are true, noble, honorable, just, pure, commendable, and excellent (Philippians 4:8), and we must be proactive in thinking these kind of thoughts. For me, this means replacing my frustration with God (and my assignment!) with humility. It means viewing my assignment as an honor, not a bother. It also means accepting that God will keep me in perfect peace as long as my mind stays on Him (Isaiah 26:3)—and I obey Him.
Sometimes, you need a change in perspective. The Bible says that we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). To be renewed, we cannot think about things in the same old ways. I had asked my friends and family to pray that I would get a full night’s sleep and that I would stop waking up so early in the mornings. This past Monday, I shifted my perspective: instead of asking for prayer that I would sleep the whole night through, I asked for prayer that I would be energized and refreshed from the sleep I did receive. Now THAT is a prayer that God was willing to—and DID—answer.
I do not always win these battles for my mind, but I am a work in progress, and God is renewing my mind daily. The most important thing to remember is to saturate your mind with His Word, and you will begin to see your thought patterns change for the better.
What strategies do you have for dealing with the battle for your mind?