Here’s a little secret: I am a recovering perfectionist and people-pleaser. When I notice people are judging me, questioning my intentions, or disagreeing with me, worry, doubt, and guilt overcome me. However, the Lord is slowly chipping away at this vice of mine. He is redeeming it for His purposes, and thankfully, He’s been gentle and patient with me as I slowly learn and grow. In this, I’ve realized my need to extend the very thing I so desire from everyone else — namely, grace.
Want to know another secret that I hate even typing out? I gossip. I’d like to think I don’t gossip all that often, or that I am not as bad as most. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter, and likely I am naive to even the gravity of my own fallenness. Gossip tears down Christ’s creation, regardless if it is a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly occurrence.
So what do you get when you pair a recovering people pleaser + perfectionist (who desires grace) + a gossiper? You get a hypocrite. Hypocrite — a word that stings to type, hear, and even think about. It is a word I never want to describe to me. Thus, leads me into this post, a topic the Lord placed on my heart.
I am sure we have all said, or been on the receiving end of similar sentiments:
“I can’t believe s/he’s selling (name any multilevel marketing company)…like just get a real job.”
“Did you hear they are coaching at _____ (insert the College the individual graduated from)?! Just close the yearbook already!”
“S/he’s just kind of emotional, it really wasn’t a big deal.”
“I can’t believe they are already getting married.”
“Of course they’re homeschooling.”
“I can’t believe she would ever spend that much on her…(insert something you wouldn’t): schooling, coffee, groceries, home, haircut, skincare, gym membership, alcohol, dinner, kitchen remodel, clothes, car, vacation….).”
“Well, you know what their political views are (insert eye roll).”
“Can you believe they would vote for a liar?”
“Can you believe they would vote for a misogynist?”
“Did you hear they are living with their parents?!”
“S/he’s just awkward.”
"They’re helicopter parents.”
“S/he can’t trust any babysitter.”
“I think if s/he just focused on gratitude more, and trusted God daily, their anxiety/depression would go away.”
“Did you hear they go to that church?”
“They just need to relax.”
“Did you see what s/he was wearing today?”
“S/he definitely gained weight since high school.”
“I can’t believe s/he’s quitting his job for that reason.”
“Did you see his/her post on Instagram?!”
If we are honest with ourselves, we’ve all probably said or heard at least one (if not more) of these statements. Matthew 12:34 tells us that what we say reveals the state of our hearts. Our gossip, slander, judgment of others shows our heart is in a dark place. Ooph, that hits me hard.
The beauty of asking questions opens up growth on both ends. Let’s take the mental health example comment from above: “I think if s/he just focused on gratitude more, and trusted God daily, their anxiety/depression would go away.” The tricky part is that our experience tells us there’s some truth there… sometimes people do struggle with mental health because…
They are living an unhealthy lifestyle
They aren’t spending time in prayer and in Scripture
They are living in sin
They are living a hurried life
They are ungrateful
They are not a believer
Lately, I am learning how critical it is to offer a listening ear to those around me. Far too often, I can think I already know someone’s thoughts, when in reality I never asked and am simply assuming. This assumption puts people into boxes. Let me elaborate: Imagine you (Sometimes a chemical imbalance, not a lack of faith, fuels their nagging anxiety. The kicker is you’d have no way of knowing without asking questions. The same principle can be applied elsewhere: who someone voted for, why they work where they do, and why they struggle to find a babysitter they trust, why they homeschool…etc.
Lately, I am learning how critical it is to offer a listening ear to those around me. Far too often, I can think I already know someone’s thoughts, when in reality I never asked and am simply assuming. This assuming puts people into boxes. Let me elaborate: Imagine you (a republican who voted for President Trump) are meeting your friend (a democratic who voted for Hillary Clinton) for lunch the day after President Trump won the 2016 election. You sit down at lunch and neither of you discusses the election, but instead silently judge the other. Neither of you are happy with who you voted for, but you both felt you had no other option. Instead of opening up the topic for conversation, growth, and greater understanding, you simply think of the other as a “Hillary Clinton-supporting democrat…” or a “President Trump-supporting republican.” When we put people into boxes, we stifle conversation and the ability to grow and work together. When we ask open-ended questions and listen with genuine interest, we flourish together. If you find yourself disagreeing with someone after engaging in a deep and meaningful discussion, dive into Scripture. If you still disagree after addressing Scripture, I encourage you to reflect on what Augustine of Hippo eloquently said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
This idea of delineating between non-essentials and essentials came to my attention after listening to a sermon on Unity vs. Uniformity that one of my sweet, lifelong friends, Kate, recently shared with me. As a believer, it is imperative I dive into Scripture to know the difference between essentials and non-essentials. We live in a culture that pushes us to extremes. Often we are either divisive and quarrelsome over our differing beliefs, or we spew fake love, encouraging everyone do what feels best to them. Yet, Christ calls us to not live as the world lives, but rather to live as He lived.
At times, Christ’s life proved downright paradoxical. A paradox is “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well-founded or true.” For example, the Lord created the Earth and called it “good, and then sent a flood to destroy the Earth (while saved Noah & his family). He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) for their sexual immorality and violence, yet He famously saved the adulterous woman from being ‘rightfully’ stoned (John 8:7). The Lord shows us that love speaks the hard truths, yet forgives. Sometimes those events seem self-contradictory, but once read the whole story in its context, we find the Lord’s response is incredibly just, gracious, and merciful. Jesus knew how to respond to situations and to individuals because He knew their hearts. If we take the time to get to know our neighbor's heart, with Christ empowering us, we will be fit to love them; whether love means confronting sin and speaking the hard truth, or seeking unity and not uniformity. Love is not simple acceptance, nor is it quick judgment. Love seeks the truth and speaks the truth. Love is patient and kind. It honors others and delights in truth. It protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 states, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
So, as a recovering perfectionist, people-pleaser I remind myself that Jesus is the only one I am seeking to please. And when I find myself gossiping and judging others, I remind myself to ask questions, to get to know the person and to always keep in mind what things are essential to living a Christian life according to Scripture, and what things are non-essentials.