Don’t Tell Me How to Feel

Don't

If you are going to tell me how I SHOULD be feeling– there’s a good possibility that I’ll want to throat chop you.

Sounds kinda harsh, Holly. Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Got your panties in a twist? Forgot to drink your cup of coffee today?

Want to know what sounds harsh to ME??

Someone thinking they have the right or the God given responsibility to tell another person how they SHOULD feel. The thing about feelings is that they vary from person to person. So, even if two people experience similar situations or circumstances those two people can feel two totally different ways. Most of the time though, I’ve found that the person telling me how I should feel hasn’t experienced the same thing as me, but wants to be helpful.

Let me give you some personal examples:

I’m 30 years old and single. Please don’t tell me that I shouldn’t be sad, discouraged or angry. I don’t care if you’re 80 and still single or have been married since you were 18– there are days I’m going to grieve my singleness. There are going to be days that I feel like I’m going to be single forever. And there are most certainly days when I’m angry about it. Angry at God (as silly and stupid as that may be). Angry at myself for whatever fault I think it is keeping me this way. Or angry at you because you’re NOT single.

Nothing pisses me off more (seriously though) than someone who’s been married forever telling me how I should feel as a single person. It’s like nails on a chalk board annoying.

Another huge area people like to give the should/shouldn’t feeling guidelines in is grief. I lost someone very dear to my heart 7 years ago. Each day has not made that loss any easier.

Not one ounce easier.

In fact, some days it is harder. Much, MUCH harder.

“But, Holly, you said it was over 7 years ago. You shouldn’t still be grieving. Get over it.”

Let me give you some insight into grief, if you’ve never lost someone that you loved very much. Time does not make that loss easier because everyday takes you one day farther from the last time you were with them. One day farther from the last time you felt their embrace. One day farther from the sound of their voice on the other end of the phone. It means you’re not able to experience things with them that you were hoping to or celebrate milestones you thought they’d be present for.

I know some of you may be thinking one of the following:

  • She must be exaggerating or misinterpreting what people say.
  • She must be super sensitive.
  • People are right.
  • Holly is bitter. To this one I say, there is a difference between bitterness and passion and this is one of those circumstances where my passion for a topic may come across sounding bitter.

Even if any of the previous statements were true, and they may be, I still don’t think it gives a person a right to tell me how to feel.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel because feelings are subjective.

It’s OK to feel angry. Being angry is NOT a sin. Don’t believe me? Check out Ephesians 4:26. By the way, Jesus got angry. He got angry at those prostituting the temple and at the Pharisees for their hardened hearts. Being angry, in an of itself, is not a sin.

It’s OK to feel disappointment.

It’s OK to feel sad.

It’s OK to feel excited. Ya, there are even some people who like to rain on other’s parades and tell them they shouldn’t be happy or excited about something because it might not work out like they had hoped.

When we tell someone how they should feel we are shaming them. We are classifying their feelings as illegitimate and that’s got to stop. It’s fine if you don’t understand the feelings or can’t relate to them most of the time, as I’ve stated in my previous blog post (Cliches, Platitudes & Useless Advice), people just want a listening ear. They want to be heard and loved regardless of whatever feelings they may be having.

So, no more “shoulds”, okay? I’m not afraid to use that throat chop, if I need to–just don’t make me. 😉

 

 

 

Cliches, Platitudes & Useless Advice

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Let’s pretend for a moment that you were having a hard time.

Not that YOU would ever have a hard time, but humor me anyway.

Maybe you received a test result from a doctor that you weren’t expecting. Maybe you’ve been searching for a job for months with nothing to show for it. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Maybe your spouse decided they didn’t love you anymore. Maybe your favorite shirt shrunk in the dryer. Or maybe your favorite TV show has been cancelled.

Sure, there’s some extremes there, but each one is legitimate in its own right. I promise I will do my best not to judge you and your struggle, and I’m begging you to return the favor. It’s a very prideful person that would decipher  who is “allowed” to be hurting/struggling and who isn’t. I think we could all admit we don’t fully understand another person’s struggles simply because we haven’t lived that person’s life.

Now that we’ve got that groundwork laid, I think it’s important to share some advice with you.

Stop giving advice. (See what I did there?)

Stop with the cliches.

Stop with the cute sayings with floral backgrounds you found on Pinterest. (Things will be OK in the end. If they’re not OK, it’s not the end…This one makes me with it were the end!)

Stop with the “Christianese” answers. (God will never give you more than you can handle– wrong.)

Or the “You should read this book”. (It’ll just get added to the stack)

Keep reading, I promise I’ll clear some things up.

I’ve given you my “NOT-TO-DO” list, but you may be wondering: So what DO you want people to do, Holly?!?

I’m glad you asked!

Listen.

Love.

And if they’re into that kind of thing give them a hug. 🙂 Maybe they’d prefer a high-five, or an awkward side hug, or an arm squeeze.

Listening seems pretty straight forward, but I fear it may need some clarifying. It doesn’t mean listening with one ear and doing a mental “Google search” for some trite response. I’ve done that before, I’ll admit it. I’ll be listening to a friend who is telling me how how they’re hurting and my brain will pick up on a key word/theme and then I start thinking of every book, Scripture verse, or Snapple fact I’ve read that could possibly relate to the situation.

Just listen. Hand them a tissue if they start to tear up. Look them in the eyes. Really listen.

Now for the love part. This part is a little bit more tricky because each person is different and receives love in different ways. If they’ve told you about a physical pain, instead of just saying “I’ll be praying for you!” actually pray for them. Ya, like right there. I don’t care that it’s the ice cream aisle at the grocery store. If they’ve told you they’re struggling financially, send them a gift card in the mail or hand them a 20 spot. If they’re lonely, call them up a few days later and ask them if they’d like to get a coffee.

Or, simply tell them you love them and you care.

As I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again and again, as Christians we don’t have to have ALL the answers. Yes, God, Jesus the Bible and all the Sunday School answers are easy to spew out, as a cover-up when a simple “I don’t know” would be more honest.

I don’t know why you aren’t married yet.

I don’t know why you have cancer.

I don’t know why that person said that hurtful thing.

Also, and maybe this is just a personality thing, but sometimes just hearing someone say they love me brings some comfort. I’m a “words of affirmation” girl, with “Gifts of Chocolate” as a close second. 😉

And if during the week, there’s a Bible verse that you think would give them hope, by all means share it with them. I’m not saying *all* advice/encouragement is useless. Just the thoughtless kind.

Don’t give out dimes by the dozen when a person needs a treasure to hold onto.

 

Forever Alone: The Single Girl Struggle

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Let me be clear about a few things before I get started on this enlightening rant.

I’m not mad/angry/bitter towards well meaning people who try and encourage those of us who are single. I understand that MOST of them were not single as long as some of us have been. So, they don’t understand that we’ve heard the same things many, many, many, many, many times before. Sure, repetition can sometimes be helpful. Like when trying to memorize the colors of bomb wires so you know which ones are safe to cut and which ones aren’t. They also don’t understand that even though cliches are cute, they are seldom helpful.

When it comes to encouragement for the single ones around you, let me let you in on a few things.

Some of us single people feel shame about our singleness. We often wonder what’s wrong with us. Do guys prefer short hair and mine is long? Do guys prefer girls who drive cars without rust spots? Do I not pray enthusiastically enough in public? Should I lose 50-100 pounds because I’m too fat for a boyfriend? Am I too opinionated? Too passionate? Too short?

Not enough.

Too much.

Unworthy.

Insufficient.

Just some of the words or thoughts we struggle with. For some of us it is a daily struggle. Some days I can’t go to a church service, young adult meeting, grocery store, or gas station pump without wondering why I’m single. I’ll look around and wonder how they have someone and I don’t. Ya, sure, I’m judgmental. Add that to the list of reasons why I’m single.

Seriously though. There’s this idea that you must be messed up if your still single. That if you had your crap together you’d be married by now. There’s some sin you haven’t dealt with and your singleness is a punishment from God. Yes, I’ve often thought God withheld a good thing (like a spouse) from me because I wasn’t perfect. Horrible theology, I know, but it seemed like the only viable solution. God hates me, I’d think.

Also, married people tend to think that we have these Hollywood ideas in our head about marriage. No, we know marriage won’t solve any of our problems. We know it won’t be easy. We know its not all hand-holding, giggling and loving eye gazes. We get that some days you struggle with how you could love the person farting in the bed next to you. We get it.

But we want to wake up next to a farting partner, instead of the pillow husband we’ve crafted. That we’d rather get tortured each night with the horrendous “dutch oven” than fall asleep with tears falling down our faces asking God one more time for a mate. (Again, I’ve heard stories. I know there will be tear stained pillows after marriage.)

It’s also not helpful to tell people they’re “too picky”. Listen, I didn’t wait 30 years to marry some schmuck. Sure, he may not be a bearded lumberjack who will sing me love songs and buy we chocolate when I’m being an emotional basket-case, but he’s not going to be just any schmoe. Trust me, I’ve gone on dates with schmoes. It’s horrifying, but the stories lend themselves as warning signs for the teen girls I counsel.

I once heard, “You’ve got to be a Ruth to get a Boaz”. There’s a lot of encouragement that mirrors this sentiment. Please, don’t tell single girls this. Ever. Firstly, the story of Ruth is a tad bit weird. If it were a movie, there’d be wedding bells as the credits scrolled, but God never intended it to be a chapter in the “How to Snag a Mate” book. Besides the fact that its not practical in our society (we don’t follow the Old Testament kinsman redeemer protocal in this century/country)– it was meant to be used as an example of our relationship with God. Secondly, this type of encouragement adds fuel to the “I’m not good enough” fire already raging in our minds.

EVERYONE (single, married, divorced, widowed, etc.) is going through a process of growth in their lives. Hopefully, we are getting more mature, more loving, less selfish and all that good stuff. Saying that there’s some kind of running rubric for my character and that when I get a certain grade THEN I’ll be ready for marriage is….dumb.

Give. Me. A. Break.

I should state here that I’m not saying that married people believe this. What I am saying is that sometimes the things we say can come off a certain way. Like, for instance, that we’ve got our crap together and you don’t. I assure you all, I am not perfect– just in case you thought that or something I said made it seem like I thought that.

And my favorite of all “He’ll come when you stop looking for him.”

NEWS FLASH: That’s not happening. Not today. Or the next.

I don’t know how you just stop wanting something like that. Ask me to stop wanting chocolate, and I think that’d be an easier battle to win. And I’m the girl who eats chocolate everyday. Like its MY JOB.

And define: “looking for”. I mean, I want a husband. I’m certainly open to the possibility of going on a date with the guy helping me at Verizon. Or contemplating stopping my car in the middle of an intersection because I saw a bearded fella, wearing a red flannel shirt riding a motorcycle (This thought did actually go through my mind). But I’m not at home every night staring out my window longingly with a can of Nutella in one hand and a spoon in the other. Ok, SOME nights I do have a heaping spoon of Nutella, but I’m never starring out the window at the same time. 😉 I’m still living life. I’m still enjoying my friends, my family, the opportunities I get to serve. I just also want someone standing next to me and enjoying it all with me.

I’m also not looking for a man to complete me. I am looking for a life partner because life seems more FUN when you’re experiencing it with someone you love.

I guess I should leave all the single people reading this with some encouragement. A few weeks ago my (married) BFF sent this to me. In all my years of hearing all the cliches, Bible verses, etc. this has been the thing that has brought more life and hope than anything else.

singleness

 

P.S. If you happen to be a single, bearded, flannel wearing gentleman then look no further! I’m witty (obviously), I ‘m a brilliant writer (again, obviously) and I’m pretty good lookin’.

**Disclaimer: This is NOT a complete list of lines I’ve heard in my singleness journey, but I thought that was enough for now. Maybe a Part 2 some other time. **

If I knew then, what I know now…

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I turn 30 this week. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten wiser. Although some days that’s questionable.

Here’s some things I’d tell a younger version of myself, if I had the chance:

Don’t be so selfish. Give of your time, money, skills and love to others. Those “deserving” and those, not so deserving. Those you like, and those you don’t.

Don’t ever regret loving. Sure, you’re gonna walk away with a broken heart some of the time, but its worth it. It’s always worth it to love.

Set more boundaries. Boundaries aren’t selfish, even though I still struggle with this idea. Boundaries help healthy relationships grow and protect us from unhealthy ones.

Don’t date him. Or him. Or him. Or him. Mom was right.

Stop being so insecure. You’re awesome. Sure, you’re not a size 2. You still get pimples. And you can be extremely awkward in social settings. It’s ok!

You’re not going to remember– write it down. This includes the trivial (like things you need at the grocery store) to the sentimental (like funny things dad says). I can’t tell you how many times you’ll walk away from a sermon at church and think “Wow! That was good.” and then forget everything that was said. Or the amount of times you’ll go to the store, only to come home with the one thing you needed most (like TP), but failed to because it didn’t get put on the list. Or the amount of times grandpa said something witty and later on thought “What was that silly saying Grandpa told me?”

Take more risks. Fear held me back from doing things I should have tried–even if to say, “I’m never doing that again!”

Being perfect is unattainable….so stop trying. And when you realize you can’t do something perfectly don’t beat yourself up over it.

Forgive faster. Forgive even if you think the other person is wrong. Forgive even if the other person IS wrong. Trust me. Swallow your pride on this one.

Grandma was right–make new friends, but keep the old. Though you may not text, or write, or call as often as they are on my mind– know when you do it will be like there hasn’t been any time or miles between you.

Jesus isn’t as hard on you, as you are on yourself. He’s more loving, more understanding, less judgmental and just more awesome than you could ever grasp, but try to grasp it anyway. Every time you ask Him for more of Himself, He’ll do it.

What are some things you’d tell yourself if you knew then what you know now?