In my last post I wrote about a story about my anger but at the time I didn’t know the reason why I did what I did. If you haven’t read yet that, you can read it here.
It wasn’t until over a decade later that I knew what it was all about. I learned my reaction of anger was a protective device to prevent me from being exposed as a liar, undependable and stupid. Where did this come from?
When I was in third grade, I was Mrs. Leighton’s “teacher’s pet.” Everyone knew that Mrs. Leighton favored me, and for me, it was like living water for my child’s thirsty soul. Mrs. Leighton, for some reason, had chosen me as special and worthy of her special attention. I don’t remember exactly how she expressed that, but everyone in the class knew it.
On one particular day, I said something negative and hurtful to someone in class that several students heard. I don’t remember what I said, but it was so bad that one or maybe several of the students called Mrs. Leighton over to where we sat. One student spoke up and told her what I’d said. Mrs. Leighton looked at me with concern and asked, “Kathy, did you say that?”
The potential for disappointing Mrs. Leighton, of ruining my good standing before her, of destroying the flow of living water that came from my status as teacher’s pet was being threatened right before my eyes. I felt like I was in a vise. The students knew the truth. I knew the truth. I’d said those words. All eyes were on me.
And I choose to protect what seemed like living water. I lied. “No, Mrs. Leighton, I didn’t say that.”
Mrs. Leighton smiled her approval and blessing—she even looked triumphant—and turned away. But every eye was on me. They knew the truth. I knew the truth. Not only had I said some bad things, I had lied. I was a liar.
In my heart, I recoiled at the thought that I was a liar. I felt ashamed. Looking back now, I know that I made an unconscious vow: “No one must ever know that I am a liar.” I don’t remember thinking those words and I doubt that I did in those exact words. But the result I now see is undeniable. I became dependable.
My “strategy” became dependability. “If I’m dependable, no one will know the horrible truth that I’m a liar. Dependability is the opposite of lying. If you lie, you don’t keep your promises and you aren’t dependable. But if you are dependable, no one can call you a liar!” Over many years, I honed the skill of dependability. I wore it like a shawl of glory. My most prized compliment was my dependability. My teachers described me in every report card with the affirming words, “Kathy is very dependable and conscientious.” I made sure no one could ever accuse me of lying. My motto—my protection—was in place.
Over the years, I failed at times in being dependable and keeping promises. In those moments, anger reared its ugly head because anger takes the focus off of me and points the finger elsewhere. “Look at what Cherie did to me,” I screamed that day. “Don’t look at the possibility that I’m not dependable, look at her. She isn’t very smart not to believe the sign up sheet.” I had a knee jerk reaction that I’d made many times over the years, and later wondered, “Why do things like that bother me so much?”
We all do this very same kind of thing in different areas of our lives and wonder, “Why do I do what I do, even when I’m determined not to do it anymore? Even when I pray for God’s help, I keep doing it!”
The key is in looking back to see the vows and strategies we made. We can then see how we left out depending upon God and now we can turn our eyes to Jesus and His view of us. It’s a process we’ll do over and over again. But there is a reason I did what I did. And there’s a reason you do what you do. (Tweet that!)
(This is an excerpt from Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today.)