Recently ThingTwo came home from school frustrated. Navigating the social structure of public middle school is challenging, and my beautiful seventh grader is struggling to figure it all out.
Much like her momma, ThingTwo is a talker. Last year, back at her old school, the older kids would sometimes get annoyed with her for talking so much. Her cheerful chatter didn’t mesh with their middle-school coolness. So when we moved, she decided she would form a new image of herself. She would speak less, listen more. At the lunch table, as the other girls talked, ThingTwo sat quietly, listening. She was determined not to annoy them with her talkativeness.
But on this particular day, the entire plan seemed to fall apart. As ThingTwo sat silently eating her lunch, another girl looked up from her cafeteria tray and said, “You’re boring! You don’t say anything interesting. You don’t talk.”
As my baby girl finished recounting the lunchroom story, she looked at me and exhaled in exasperation, “What am I supposed to do? I tried not to talk too much because I didn’t want to be annoying, but then I’m boring because I don’t talk enough! I can’t win!”
I understand her frustration. Her desire to be liked, her struggle to be a perfect balance of every good character trait, her attempts to change herself to please others, her anxiety over not being able to get it just right — all of that courses through the DNA she inherited from me.
But as ThingTwo quickly realized (and her slow-learning momma learns over and over again) it’s impossible to please everyone. It’s impossible to mold ourselves into a perfect person who is just the right amount of talkative and good listener, of serious and funny, of structured and spontaneous, of tidy and creative. It’s impossible for us to embody every strength, every good character quality. And when we focus on trying to outwardly change ourselves to please people -or even to please God-, we will always ALWAYS end up frustrated and disappointed.
This focus on performance is exhausting. It’s a heavy burden and hard yoke. But grace offers freedom. Grace says You don’t have to mold yourself to fit expectations because I already met them all. Come to Me and I will give you rest. Come to Me and I will fit My light yoke on you, fastening you to Me. And the burden will be easy because I will bear the brunt of the weight.
Grace says Stop trying to change yourself. Just come to Me. If I want you to change, then I will change you. Stop trying to do and rest instead in what I’ve already done.
How about you? Have you ever tried to change some innate part of who you are in order to please others or fit in? Do you often feel the anxiety and stress of trying to mold yourself to fit some set of expectations? Or have you found freedom? Tell us about it.