Coffee Chat is back for a new year! Grab your cup and let's get to it.
What was your biggest lesson learned in 2016?
I have talked about this so much here lately that it must be becoming such a bore. But, here goes one more time.
It was actually a gradual process. Because of hurts and betrayals in relationships I began a slow decline into isolation. I began to question my approaches to relationships, my confidence in myself and, really, just stopped trying. More than anything, I stopped being me because of the relationships I thought I was losing when I was being me.
I realized right at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, after some grief-stricken emotional periods of depression and outbursts that I cannot give up being the person I truly am just to make friends and make others happy.
God made me a certain way. I am an introvert. I am not shy by any means. But I get drained very easily around people and commotion. I need lots and lots and lots and lots of time alone to have any energy at all to give even small pieces of myself to others. So it doesn't surprise me that my Love Language is Acts of Service. I feel loved when others do something for me to "ease my load" and I love others by doing the same for them. I try to love in other ways, but with colossal failure.
My greatest day is when I can fix meals for my family, provide an easy day for them, help them do something, run an errand for a family member, take a care package to a friend. At the end of the day I have loved, and loved well.
In recent years I have let others' unhappiness with the way I love affect my total ability to love them. And then that has completely thrown me off track while I flounder around trying to figure out what in the heck to do to make someone like and/or love me.
Let me give an example of several years ago. We were attending a church in Oklahoma. Wednesday night services were a struggle for me. So, I volunteered to work in the snack bar in the youth building. I absolutely loved that area of service! I was providing for the kids, slowly getting to know them. They loved me and I got to love on them with my Love Language. I went home on Wednesday nights feeling really built up. And I grew very close to several youth. A few months into my service, the youth paster came to me and told me that he wanted me to start working at the "Welcome Desk" to guide students when they came in and help his assistant with whatever she needed. I hated that area of service. I am not a small-talker. I stood there alone most of the night. I built zero relationships. Gradually I just quit working with youth. He tried to change who I was to fit his needs. And I was kept from loving people the way I love. We all lost out.
I have kind of felt that way over the past several years. You want to be my friend? You have to do it this way. You want me to show you I approve of you? You have to do this, this and this. You want me to love you? You do this and then I will. If you don't, I'll find someone else to love.
So I have spun these wheels to the point that I have been stuck in a big ol' pile of mud.
Gradually I have pulled myself out of the muck and mire. I have chosen to focus on being the woman God has created me to be. He created me to be this introvert. He has created me to love in this certain way. There is a need for that kind of love. I have realized I cannot be all people to all people. I cannot fulfill each person's need for love, as each person cannot fulfill mine. When I am feeling lacking, I have to turn to God for His love and approval instead of man's, or woman's. It is nobody's job to make me feel loved. I certainly hope others will show me kindness and grace, and even love. But when they don't, it's my fault for how I react to it instead of his or her fault for how they are not fulfilling my needs.
Now this is not to say that I will not try to be sensitive to the Love Languages and needs of my family and dearest friends. Rick has completely opposite needs for love than I have, and I suck at fulfilling those needs because they are so outside my wheelhouse. But that doesn't mean I stop trying to love him in those ways. It just means that I stop beating myself up when I "fail" because I am definitely going to. I have and I will. Each of my kids has different needs for love. I try to recognize those and fulfill them as much as I can. Same goes for my extended family members and closest friends.
But do you see what starts to happen? If I love Rick this way, each kid their way, my parents their way, each friend the way they need, then I am not left to love them the way I love and I lose myself. They get jipped because they aren't getting authentic love out of me. They are getting the me that is trying to please them. And I am completely drained and useless. And grumpy. And tired. And spent. And, eventually, done.
Somewhere in there is balance. I am desperately working to find it. (If you have any suggestions, let me know.)
But this I have learned: I have to be myself if you want to really feel any love at all.