Defensiveness

Those of you who actually know me know that I tend to over-analyze everything, including myself. So it should not come as any great surprise that I have been further reflecting this morning on my reaction to the comment left on my guestbook suggesting I had always craved attention and that was why I wrote the book.

Last night, I reacted by resorting to "defending" myself on my blog. (That post has been deleted.) This morning, however, I began to think about something my former Christian counselor once said to me. He pointed out to me that any time we feel defensive, it's because we are protecting something. The person stung us with at least a grain of truth, or we would not feel our defenses come up.

Last year, this was said to me in an email:
"You were always the one who had the stage. Piano lesions, the one who excelled in everything, always center stage. But it was never enough."

When I read it, my first thoughts were: "What makes you think I wanted that? What gave you the impression it was never enough? I actually resented that I had to constantly perform and you couldn't even see that!" (I find it offensive when people who do not know me or what's in my heart think they do.)

So when I read, "...but you always did crave the attention," I thought of the piano lessons and the stage remarks, and I wondered if this person perceived me the same way based on all those years of performing. It probably wouldn't have even occurred to me if this had not been said to me so recently. The truth is, I resented having to always perform, but that was the way I received the approval I did crave. And one of the things I wrote about in my book was that God has helped me to see that seeking other people's approval, acceptance and love IS seeking attention. So of course I felt defensive when I read it. Yes, I did want positive attention. Maybe not in exactly the way that person is thinking of it, but approval IS a form of attention.

I was the first child and the only girl in my family. More was demanded of me than either of my brothers. The fact that this is true of firstborns in almost all families is well documented in many psychology books. It's just the way it is. Parents expect more from the first child and firstborns are often the over-achievers. Then, with each successive child, the parents learn from their mistakes and tend to relax a bit. This is not an indictment of my family. It's true of most families.

So, although I may not remember ever wanting the "stage" for the sake of having the stage, I did want love and approval and that certainly is a form of craving attention. How silly of me to deny this...even to myself. Especially since I have addressed it and confessed it already in my book.
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The following is an excerpt from Breaking the Chains (pages 111-112):

You cannot follow Christ and protect your old nature. Following Christ is about dying to self and putting to death your old nature. It was painful for me to confront how much my people-pleasing was driven by selfish motives. We often think of people-pleasers as being focused on others; but the truth is, people-pleasers have an unquenchable thirst for being loved and affirmed. Rather than being noble and good, my actions were selfish. Once I saw my true motives and the selfish heart that was driving me, I knew I had to change. It’s one thing to be sick and not know you’re sick. I could endure a lot of unhealthy behavior in other people as long as I viewed myself as being healthy. However, once my eyes were opened to my condition and I saw myself, I wanted to change and become healthy. Above all else, I wanted to become spiritually healthy.

There was nothing more painful for me than confronting my self-centered heart or self-serving motives. I was so good at deceiving myself. I did not even realize I was self-centered, that my motives were all about keeping myself comfortable and safe. So, on many occasions since, I have asked God to reveal the hidden motives of my heart and make me more aware of them—in small doses, of course. (If He showed me everything He sees, it might be more than I could handle all at once.) In the words of Philip Yancey, “God already knows who we are: we are the ones who must find a
way to come to terms with our true selves.”
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I long to have genuine humility before God and others. I long for the day when I cease to defend or justify myself when criticized and choose repentance instead.

Lord, I repent for my need to be approved of and understood by others. I ask your forgiveness for seeking the validation of other people. I confess my longing for others to know me and know my heart. Help me to find my acceptance in Christ alone. And please continue to show me the hidden motives of my heart that I don't always see in myself. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Comments

Beautiful Shari! This is clear evidence that the Lord continues to grow and change your heart. It is a journey, but you just took a big step and sharing it openly with us is a testimony. Thank you for sharing your heart, even the messy parts that are still being worked on. Isn't it great that we have a Lord that loves us in spite of all of that, and that he has given us the gift of repentance so we can be free and forgiven.

God bless,
Sherie
Shari said…
Yes, it is. Thank you, Sherie.

It's been a tough week and I'm dealing with a lot of stress. My husband completed his sixth round of chemo this week and has been feeling really bad all weekend. It's very hard to watch someone you love suffer. If I could have a do-over, I would not even respond to the comment.
I will keep praying for you and John. I hope that remission occurs and lasts a very long time!