My breakfast yesterday morning was a sleeve of saltine crackers in the Publix parking lot.
I woke up with a headache that could make a grown man cry. I swallowed three Advil before crawling out of bed and slapping Icy Hot on my forehead. That isn’t something I would normally do, but desperate times and all that…
I finally managed to take a hot shower, throw on my worst outfit and drive to the grocery store. I entered with wet hair, baggy basketball shorts, and a tight grimace on my face.
And then I went and sat in my car. I sat there pitifully eating a sleeve of saltine crackers, drinking a Coke Zero, and telling God that I had officially hit an all-time low.
I haven’t figured out what it means to have order in my life. That’s just the raw and honest truth of it. There was a time in my life that I had order, I had peace, I had a schedule, a plan, a routine.
For weeks my phone has blowing up every five minutes with demands, questions, events, meetings, plans, and I’ve been on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
I’ve realized I don’t know what it means to be honest.
Part of this comes from growing up in the South, where being blunt is somewhat forbidden (especially for little girls). It can often be labeled rude, and does not make you appear hospitable or agreeable.
You must aways find the perfect way to send your regrets, which means– the only acceptable reason for not going to something or doing something is because there is another life-or-death commitment/event that you cannot miss.
So, from a young age I learned not to say no because I didn’t want to do something, or do not have the capacity for it. I believed you must only say no if you’re saving orphans or helping old ladies at the grocery store.
And the church did very little to help me with this. There’s a notion of always having to do the Christian thing. There’s the right thing and then there’s what the church calls the Christian thing and they, I’m quickly learning, do not always coincide.
So, here I am, a bold and blunt individual who very clearly understands where she stands on most things, but who has been muzzled by “polite” southern culture and doing the Christian thing.
This is where chaos and being covered in cracker crumbs comes in. Rather than realizing that honesty will always trump presentation, I find myself making the dumbest excuses and telling everyone “I’ll get back to you” as a way to give myself ample amounts of time to figure out what the polite and Christian thing to do would be.
And then, begrudgingly, I will do that. Even if I hate it. I will inwardly whine the entire time. But at least I’ll have the false feeling of comfort that comes from believing that I did the polite and Christian thing (and knowing that Dolly Parton would be proud).
However, killing your honesty in order to make others happy is poison. One day, you’ll look around your life and see nothing but piles of perfectly formed excuses, all of them lies.
Saying I can’t or I don’t want to is not rude and not un-Christian.
This is a truth that I’ll probably wrestle with for the rest of my life. I’ve spent twenty-four years of believing the opposite, so it will probably take a while to re-learn a different way.
Neglecting our health and sanity and refusing to be honest about where we are is what breeds chaos in our lives. We find ourselves unable to say yes and no to things because we sacrifice what is necessary for what is acceptable to others. We can frequently find ourselves lying, but convinced that it’s for “the good reason” of not hurting someone else.
I’m terrified to disappoint people, to hurt them, to let them down. I am terrified of being bad at commitment.
This became clear to me when I was in a season of attending three churches in the same day. I would go to a 10 am service, drive twenty-minutes and go to a noon service, and then eat lunch and then drive thirty-minutes and go to a 6 pm service.
This went on for months. I spent so much money on gas and so much time sitting on pews that it’s a miracle I didn’t end up homeless and in a back brace.
All because I didn’t know how to disappoint people. I didn’t know how to accept my limits. I didn’t know how to be human. I didn’t know how to say “I can’t…”
What I’m seeing is that running away, making excuses, and just being polite aren’t my only options and they’re certainly not the best ones.
Learning to be honest, humble, and human is what’s required of us. We are to be loving in our responses, but that doesn’t mean lying to spare feelings or to make others happy. It means sometimes simply saying, I can’t or I don’t want to and knowing that our reasons won’t always expand beyond that.
I’m also realizing that all the hiding and the time spent making up excuses will drain you from actually doing the things you need to do.
I’m trying to become a person who answers honestly. Knowing that it might not get praise, it might be disappointing, and it might not be agreeable, but I’m learning that loving people by granting them my honesty truly is the best policy.