I felt bad; how could I not? We had once relished in the fact that we were both barely making it. Strangely we bonded because we were both “scratching and surviving.” Misery definitely found company between us, and I would be breaking up the party. How dare I get better, be happy, and move on? It was finally my time, and I felt awful for it.
| No Apologies Necessary |
Hello. My name is Christen, and I apologize too much.
In a random conversation with me, you are liable to hear me apologize for everything from over sharing to not saying enough. I’ll apologize if I accidentally cut you off just the same as I’ll apologize for the hesitation before my response. If I’m singing or laughing too loudly, I may apologize. If I’m too quiet and “not myself,” I’ll apologize. Without my cognizant recognition, I would have apologized for every single thing I’ve done throughout the day. Here are two important things to know about my proclivity to be over apologetic.
- This was a learned behavior. Though my mother may not have intended to teach me this lesson, there were times that I watched her apologize to people for things she said or did that weren’t wrong at all. My mother was a peacemaker and maybe sometimes too passive in certain situations, so in order to bring and keep peace, she conceded. I so desperately wish she were still here so I could ask her, “Why?”
- I’m only overly apologetic with people who are close or special to me. As expected, I value the opinions of my nearest and dearest probably a bit more than that of a random stranger. This isn’t to say that I don’t respect everyone’s right to an opinion, good or bad, it’s just that I hear the opinions of those who actually know me a bit louder than those who are commenting from the sidelines. (I hope that doesn’t sound too harsh. — There I go about to apologize.) I can vividly remember two former boyfriends having grievances with seemingly everything I did. I was too sensitive, I was too harsh, I sang too loudly in the shower, I was too rough around the edges, I wasn’t as confident as I once was, I was too clingy, I wasn’t affectionate enough, and so on and so forth. Before long, I felt like I wasn’t good enough, like the makings of me were offensive to them, and I simply apologized for everything. When I got smart enough, I uninvited them from my life – but that’s another story for another day.
The other day I sent a text message to a friend doing what I do best…apologizing. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t apologizing for something I said or did. I hadn’t overstepped a boundary. With this particular friend, we were once two peas in misery’s pod. We struggled with some of the same issues, battled with some of the same kinds of grief, and suffered from the same lowered esteem. Life had taken its toll on the both of us, and we used that as a point of camaraderie. We foolishly and unintentionally reconstructed the foundations of our friendship with the struggles of one season not considering how it would affect the next. Fast forward the clock, and found myself sending a message that began with, “I apologize,” and ended saying, “I often times struggle with feeling bad that my life seemingly is peachy and perfect while you work to get out of a hole. I sometimes find myself wanting to dumb down the good because I don’t share with you the bad.”
There it is. I don’t just apologize, I dumb down.
Transparently speaking, I cannot even count the number of relationships (romantic or otherwise), the number of ways, or even the myriad of reasons why I minimized who I was. Whether it was because I was the smartest, most outspoken, or merely the least intimidated person in the room, I would sometimes shrink up for the sake of others, specifically those close enough to me to touch my emotions.
I like understanding and catching every detail, so often times I will go back and read text message or email threads over again to see if I missed anything: the point, the underlying intent, or anything that was written between the lines but unspoken. In re-reading this thread, one of the main things I found was my own flaw. As aforementioned, I was conversing with someone who had been close enough to me to know my sufferings and even suffer with me in some ways. This individual knows how I think, what my heart is like, and even how bad off I once was. This person has not only seen me cry and heard me pray for better days but also watched me work my behind off everyday to get to “better.” This conversation was with a friend…a friend who I left behind at misery’s party. Even typing that makes my heart ache because I didn’t intend to leave anyone behind. That isn’t who I am at the heart of me which is why I become this woman who apologizes and diminishes. Reading those text messages again didn’t just show me the Christen with a big, loving heart. As I said, I saw my flaws and ultimately the root of this behavior.
- In the past I have been a people pleaser. I am actively working on this and have found ways to reverse this nature with just about everyone but my nearest and dearest. For one reason or another, I still go out of my way to just make sure everyone is okay…even with me. Maybe my mom passed on a bit of her peacemaker nature to me, or maybe it is an insecurity. It’s probably an insecurity. It’s an insecurity. (As I typed, I resolved.) I can remember as a child just wanting people to like me. I was different, and it hurt to feel like I didn’t belong. As an adult, I just wanted people to love me, especially former beaus. In some ways, sometimes because I was made to feel that way, I didn’t feel like I was enough, and that hurt too. Somewhere on this journey of 30 years, I convinced myself that if I become what people need and do what they want, it may make them value who I am. That is a lie.
- I am too inclusive. This is something I have shared with you in blogs prior. Not only do I just want everyone to be happy, I want everything to be even. I want everyone to be included at the same pace or on the same level. I have always been this way. I can remember as an eleven year-old-girl being gifted a ring from mother that I saw in a catalog and loved. I went to my childhood best friend’s house, and she loved my ring so much that she wanted one. I went home to my mother with tears in my eyes, not because I didn’t love my ring but because my friend didn’t have one too. I begged my mother to purchase one so that she could also have a ring and feel special like me. For those of you who knew my mommy, you know what I’m about to say. My mother ordered a ring just like mine for my friend, and I refrained from wearing mine until my friend and I could wear ours together. To my disappointment, my friend lost her ring and seemingly couldn’t care less. This is probably due to the fact that what was for me was for me and not meant to be shared with her. Furthermore people can admire the “blessing” you have but not appreciate it because it isn’t tailored to or created for their lives. I’ll digress. Without boring you with a litany of examples, know that over the years I habitually tried to bring people up my level, divided what I had, or diminished who I was so that the playing fields were even.
That was a lot. If I were a preacher, I’d say something like, “All of that was my introduction; I had to get you to the porch.”
If you have been following my blog for some time, especially the really good ones that I have since disabled so that I can publish them in my book, (*insert smirk*) then you know that over the last two years or so I went through transition after transition. I have survived suicidal depression, brokenness, to a degree homelessness (meaning I lost the roof over my head that belonged to me), lack in every area, and heartbreak of every kind. I have cried so many tears that I have could have replenished the receding waters of a river. I was no stranger to sleepless nights consumed with never-ending sobbing and prayers that I really didn’t have the strength to pray followed by mornings where I applied a mask and pretended all was well. By the grace of God, I am not in that place anymore! Again, prior blogs revealed how God gave me peace as a 30th birthday gift, and shortly there after, he gave me joy! Honestly, I hadn’t felt either in so long that I didn’t know how to cope with it. Isn’t it funny how we can be in a bad space so long that we don’t know how to enjoy anything better? I’ll take it a step further and admit that though I prayed for it, somewhere along the way, I just became content with what was. God snapped me right out of that though. It was like he gave me what I needed, and he has been teaching me how to enjoy it. Peep this… Below is a portion of the Prophetic Declaration that my church recited almost every Sunday of 2018:
“This year, the Lord is exposing me to the purging of my atmospheres. I embrace release from oppressive places and people who seek to keep me in a place of brokenness, lack, and pity. I accept that my freedom may divide the company around me, but I declare that I win as long as God is for me.”
“I accept that my freedom may divide the company around me…”
The more I said this (and the rest of the declaration), the more I saw it come to past in my life. I had finally found a measure of freedom that I hadn’t experienced at any point of my adult life, and that freedom wouldn’t let me be content in the spaces that reminded me of the brokenness, lack, and pity that I once inhabited. Furthermore, I found myself discontent with the people who wanted me to remain broken and pitiful. Because I often give the benefit of the doubt, I don’t believe those individuals didn’t want be to be free. I wholeheartedly believe they didn’t want to be miserable alone. Remember, misery loves company, but every week I was declaring and watching my freedom divide that company. As a retaliation, I did what I know to do. First, I became too inclusive. I tried so desperately to fast track my friend’s deliverance so that we both could live in freedom, but that was not my shot to call. If I have learned nothing else, I now understand that people can only be healed at the level of their desire to be. If they have not found the strength to move forward or if they enjoy being broken, no amount of pushing or pulling will make them heal faster. I’ve also learned that once they have begun the process, they have to heal at their own pace. (You’ll hear that again soon.) After my failed attempts to bring that friend to where I was, I kicked into people-pleasing mode and began diminishing how great my freedom truly was. If I am transparent, I got tired of feeling like something was wrong with me because I had gotten better, and it hurt watching those who should have applauded the loudest barely clap. Before long, I would share my joy with the world but shrink when I entered the room with my nearest and dearest. In an effort to not make them feel inadequate for who, what, and where they were, I silenced the joy of who, what, and where I was. “Silenced” is past tense. I silence.
Last summer, a few weeks shy of my 30th birthday and single release, I went to lunch with my aunt and an acquaintance. In the conversation, I was sharing how I sensed that I was at the cusp of a completely new dimension, and I felt as if my life was completely about to change. When the conversation shifted to the acquaintance, who was just entering one of the most life-shaking transitions that she had ever experienced, she said, “I don’t understand why it’s Christen’s time and not mine. Is she better than me or something?” Y’all, I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing because she at least knew bits and pieces of the hell that the previous ten years of my life had brought me. She knew about my mother passing away in 2010 and the grief that controlled my life at one point. She knew about my failed marriage in 2008 and how I later had to bury that same man in 2013 because we were still legally married. She knew about how I had lost my home in 2017. She knew about some of the more recent heartbreak. She knew too much of my struggle to insinuate that it was my time out of turn simply because it wasn’t hers. I can remember my excitement dying down and spending the remainder of that lunch avoiding all talks of the shifting of my season.
I’m almost to the point. Don’t grow weary in well doing.
Beyond my control, my season changed. Without the consent or permission of anyone around me, God gave me freedom, peace, and joy. It was time.
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”
Psalm 126: 5 [King James Version]
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
Here are the basics of agriculture, if you care to know. In one season, you plant a seed. Once that seed is planted, you wait. There will be a period of time where it seems as if there is no activity because nothing has sprouted from the soil. That, my friend, is untrue. Even though there is no tangible evidence of growth that can be calculated by the naked eye, beneath the soil that seed bursts open and roots began forming. In this period of time, it feels like both the seed and time has been wasted. Oh but, baby, once the roots are deep enough, the plant begins working its way through the soil. That’s when you see that what you’ve planted was not sown in vain.
There were so many nights when I cried feeling as if the cycle would never end. In one moment I begged myself to believe that God could hear me and that he cared while in another moment I struggled with the pain of that season. What I didn’t realize, according to Psalm 126:5, my tears were seeds. If you have a seed, you’re likely to have a harvest. When I least expected it, joy sprouted! Just like the soil that begins cracking to make way for the plant, God had began preparing my life for harvest. Unfortunately, though praying for change and proclaiming that prophetic declaration, I didn’t expect God to do something like that for me. Then boom…harvest! It was time, and the seed was ripe for harvest. I’ll go further and say I that even in my hard times, I prayed (begged really) for this harvest. So why is it now that I’m walking in a level of peace, joy, and freedom that I have never experienced in my adult life I am apologizing for it?
How befitting that my Facebook Memories would give me this quote that I posted from Pastor Akeem Walker when he preached at my church last year. “Stop lying to people to help them feel comfortable about your change.” My nature to be over apologetic, dumb myself down, and diminish who, what, or where I am is nothing more than a lie to allow someone else to feel comfortable with where they are compared to where I am. I’ve been lying, yo!!!! Because I was trying to be a ride or die and remain loyal, I constricted myself to a season that I had been delivered from. I hated hearing, “You changed. You’re acting brand new,” so I would walk in my change in one arena and diminish it in another. The devil is a liar and a daggone loser! Yes, I did change, and? Isn’t what we are supposed to do? We would be so disappointed if we planted a seed for corn and all that popped out of the grown was a stalk full of seeds for corn. Bruh, then why is it that we watch people sow seeds of tears and expect them to reap a harvest of tears? Why do we watch people sow seeds of hard work and hate on them when they reach success? How is that we can watch people go through processes to transform their lives then be pissed when they become whole? Then we complain, “Oh, you’re acting funny. You’ve changed.”
Hel… heck yeah, I changed. I earned this change!
Side Note: I got fired up just then, and the “h word” would have really gone hard for effect. Pray for me, y’all… (It’s okay to laugh.)
In a prophetic moment last Sunday, my pastor shared the following words with me:
“God is going to remove leeches from your life. Either they will have to heal or let go. You too will have to let go of anyone you are leeching onto in order to feel better. You don’t need them.”
From this moment forward, I am making a vow to myself that I will no longer dumb down, diminish, or apologize for having a joy. If there be any of my nearest and dearest who cannot celebrate what God is doing for me in this season, especially those who know my story, I stand in agreement that they will have to let me go. Just the same, I will let go of anyone who I feel the need to diminish for in order to pacify and validate my insecurities. I am where I am because God led me. I am who I am because God transformed me. I have what I have because God blessed me. “This joy I have, the world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away.” If this joy is too much for them, they won’t be able to stand what God does in my life next. I’m not apologizing for it. As a matter of fact, there’s no apology necessary.
I’m not even gonna apologize for how long this blog was. *licks tongue and rolls eyes*
I hope this helps.