A few months ago, I read an article that took hold of me and just won’t let go. Here’s a link to it, in case you want to read it before moving along in this post. I’m going to sum it up here too.
It starts with this premise: what others think of me is none of my business. That’s so true in theory, and yet it has been incredibly hard for me to put that into practice in my 39 years of life. The author, Martha Beck, talks about how we each have a “generalized other” inside of us that judges the way we live our lives. Some GOs are empathetic and supportive, some are nagging fishwives who “tsk-tsk” our every moves. (Oh, is that just me? Oops.) Throughout our lives, our GOs have been formed through comments and interactions that we deemed important enough to sear into our brains: comments and interactions from the most judgmental people we’ve known. These people have formed what Beck calls our Everybody Committee. They’re the people you refer to when you mutter inside your head, “Oh, I couldn’t do that… everybody would think I’m a nut job.” Or maybe it’s, “I’m not smart enough to write a book. Everybody would know I made it up and poke holes in it.” (Oh, is that just me, again?! Oops!) We have given voice to this Committee by engraving small, jabbing comments on to our hearts throughout our lives. As Beck says,
“Most of us assemble our Everybody Committees haphazardly, especially during childhood. We tend to give the best seats to the cruelest people—people who hurt our feelings and undermine our dreams. To avoid attacks from these pernicious trolls, we obsess about living up to their standards. This is a terrible way to live.”
I have an Everybody Committee, and they have been having a heyday inside my head for the last few weeks. In fact, it’s been longer than that! They’ve just been in an especially big tizzy lately. Call it insecurity or indecision, but I just hear their loud “tsk-tsks” a little too often these days.
So it’s time to appoint a new Committee. In the article, Beck lists some steps that help with this. First I have to pinpoint those on my Committee who have been stirring the pot. And to me, that means not everyone on my Committee has been hateful. There may be one or two who are standing their ground and refusing to go along with the insurgents. I think this is true for me, and I want those allies to stay. But the others MUST GO! Here’s a sampling of my lay-offs:
- The seventh grade boy who called me Long Butt Dong (refer to the movie Sixteen Candles)? FIRED!
- The relatives who snidely remark about my “Christian friends” and turn their noses up about my faith? FIRED!
- The former friend who lied to me and then got mad when I put up boundaries to protect my heart? FIRED!
- The friend who made me feel like an afterthought and ditched me for others who were less Christian-y, or the two friends who labeled me “exhausting” and “demanding” in high school and college? FIRED!
- The mom who makes me feel like a bad parent when she cocks an eyebrow at me and gives me the hairy eyeball when my kids are tantruming in the store? FIRED!
- Even my brother who used to call me Lard A** when we were kids? FIRED!
I’m loyal – to a fault – but y’all are gonna have to go. You’re just no good for me.
The second step in this is to choose a “compassionate other” to chair my new committee. I think this step lasers in on a specific person, instead of the “generalized” portion of the “generalized others” I mentioned above. My new committee chairman will be the same chairMan I had on my old committee. The problem is I didn’t place supportive people under Him, which undermined His authority and left Him weaponless. It’s no surprise (at least it shouldn’t be!) that God is chairMan of my committee. Technically, He’s the chairMen of my committee, since He’s three-in-one of the Father, Son and Spirit. Beck says my committee chair should be someone who loves me “absolutely unconditionally.” I’d say dying for all my mistakes is pretty absolute and unconditional.
The third step is to use “snowball sampling” to fill the remaining spots on my committee. This is the process of selecting “like-minded souls” who will erase the generalized others by becoming specified supporters in my life. I don’t want a team of Yes Men who will simply agree to whatever hair-brained scheme I’m cooking up. That’s what happens when you live life from your pride instead of your humility. I want a team of people who will encourage good in my life and also challenge me to think in new ways – while (gently!) pointing out areas I can change and grow from. These are the people who do NOT (even jokingly) call my church a cult. And the ones who do NOT bring up the stupid mistake I made in college, even if they are trying to bring it up to show me (or others) how long we’ve been friends. The new committee is full of people who see my passion and know me personally, the ones who can call out greatness in others (not only me) without needing something in return, the ones who have seen me struggle and felt the pain of that – not the people who did a mental high-five to see me fall on my face.
The last part is what will be most crucial for me: connect with the new committee every day for 90 days. Beck says to spend time every day reading, talking with, Facebooking my new committee so I can re-map my brain into seeing goodness in my life. To me, this doesn’t mean just filling my brain with positive! funny! and! encouraging! anecdotes! That would be like going on a diet of straight chocolate cake for 90 days. (Sounds tempting, but would feel pretty empty after the first 3 days.) No candy-coated truisms for me. My plan is to actively seek out encouragement and reprogram my brain with it. Here’s how:
- As embarrassing as my independent cool-self thinks this is, I am reaching out to people and telling them I am needy and asking them to help encourage me. (If you’re reading this, you are probably one of those people I need to hear from, so what are you waiting for?!)
- I started reading a Beth Moore booked called Jesus: 90 Days with the One and Only. It’s been sitting on my shelf for at least a year, and I always felt I didn’t have time to commit to it. But the 90 days part screamed at me when I decided to embark on overhauling my Committee, so I started reading it 3 days ago. I’ve already spent 2 of those 3 days in a puddly mess as I open up to my ChairMen and have truth poured in to me.
- My friend DeAnne blogged about her Smash Book a while back, and I was inspired and bought a starter kit (got mine for about $9 with coupons!). But I haven’t even touched it because I’m intimidated by it. And then about 2 weeks ago, the thought hit me: I need to use my Smash Book to chronicle the God moments in my life. I started taking iPhone photos of moments when I know God is speaking to me, and I’ll be adding them to my book. I’m still undecided whether to call my book “Ebenezers” (1 Samuel 7:12-14 ~ “He named it ‘Ebenezer’ [Rock of Help], saying, ‘This marks the place where God helped us.’”) or to call it “Matzevah” (which means “monument” and “to guard or bear witness” in Hebrew, and is used in Genesis 35:14 ~ “Jacob set up a stone pillar to mark the place where God had spoken to him.”) [Kristen, we need to discuss this!]
- I tied a scrap of fabric around my wrist and I’ll be wearing it for 90 days as a visual reminder to make new recordings in my head that tell me who I am, not who others think I am.
If you are also hearing your Everybody Committee a little too loudly these days, maybe it’s time to do some spring cleaning too. Let me know if you decide to do this, and I’d be happy to pour some encouragement your way. Hopefully I can give myself some grace and pour some encouragement my way too.
Here’s the kicker of it all: before I published this post, I went back to proofread it. I wanted to make sure nothing I wrote was offensive. Or bothersome. Or pushy. And then I realized I’m listening to my old committee by doing that. Proofreading is okay; diluting my meaning because I’m afraid what they will say is NOT. That’s the difference between a conscience and a committee: I don’t want to offend, but I also want to be honest and true to myself. I will no longer acquiesce to my committee and listen to what they tell me. I’m not going to silence myself to make any of you feel more comfortable. I will listen to my conscience and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.