I’ve pretty much been in a car for the last week.
I’ve done so much driving, traveling, last minute road-trips that I’ve had lot of free time to think, a lot of free time to ask myself some really hard questions. I’ve had a lot of free time to examine all the good, bad, and uncertainty that I see in myself.
So, when you’re stuck alone with yourself for several hours every day, you really start to figure out how you see yourself. What you think about yourself starts to come out in the strangest ways (especially on Valentines Day).
One thing I’ve realized is that I wince a lot when I think about the raw truth of who I am. There are truths, ideas, desires, dreams that I’ve carried since I was a little kid and the moment they come to the surface, I notice this tight grimace come over my face and my hands tense up.
I’ve done it so many times over the last two weeks that I’ve lost count. Every time I catch myself cowering, I force myself to sit up straight and shove down whatever that shameful feeling is.
My denial was going well until God got involved.
“Stop apologizing for all the things that you love.”
I took a deep breath and whispered under my breath, “Is that what I’m doing?”
I knew the answer. I didn’t need Him to respond. I needed to admit that I already knew He was right. I had become so accustomed to being reprimanded by floods of people in my life. I was scolded for not being mild-mannered, for not being quiet, for being a little too stubborn. There were many times I was condemned for not staying silent when someone really needed to stand up.
Today, I caught myself wincing in a really passionate conversation about something that I love. I was looking carefully around the room, afraid that the scolding would soon come. When I deeply love something, I get loud and I get feisty. I go back to the eight-year-old Ashlin. But then, almost immediately, I start to cower and prepare for the punch.
It was today that I realized how easy it is to lose ourselves, to become walking apologies. We start to be so afraid of our differences that we live miserably trying replicate everyone around us.
“Well, people like her and sing her praise, so maybe I should be more quiet and reserved like she is.”
“People seem to really respect him, He seems so indifferent about everything, so maybe I just shouldn’t care so much.”
We are constantly looking around rooms and trying to figure out how to stop standing out, or how to stand out in a way that will get us applause .
But what if we just stopped looking around?
Because if we stopped looking around, we would stop noticing whether or not people clap. We wouldn’t be broken by whether or not their face has a scowl, and we wouldn’t be made prideful if they are enchanted and can’t look away.
Maybe if we stopped looking around, we would stop finding a million reasons to apologize. Maybe we would stop giving up the things that make us come alive.
Maybe we’d stop trying to fit in a suit, a sweater, a pair of shoes that we don’t even actually like.
I guess what I’m getting at is this: stop apologizing for your heart.
Stop worrying about if everyone else approves.
Ask yourself if other people’s approval is worth a lifetime of being a watered down, cardboard-cut-out version of yourself. Ask yourself if the opinions of people are worth wearing clothes that don’t fit or having a career that steals your joy.
Stop worrying about how many likes you get on Facebook or Instagram. Stop putting it all on scales and wondering if you are too much or if you are not enough.
Start asking yourself what’s going to matter when you’re in that car alone and no one’s there to approve or disapprove. Start asking yourself if you’re okay with living a life that makes you cringe because you’re afraid someone else might be a little uncomfortable. Will it matter if everyone else likes you if you don’t like yourself?
Ask yourself what’s worth trying, what’s worth loving–even if you fail. Ask yourself if you’re willing to do those things even if God is the only one who ever approves.