Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What Submission Isn't


                           Last week I learned something about myself I didn’t really want to know.

     I had oral surgery to remove two partially impacted wisdom teeth. Day three after my surgery I noticed more pain and swelling, and dutifully iced 20 minutes on and off. As the day wore on, - the pain became so intense I was convinced something was wrong. I peered inside my barely opening mouth with a flash light and was pretty sure I saw exposed bone.

     I quickly called the Dr.’s office and spoke to a woman who listened to my concerns and then proceeded to tell me to ice it again, told me she was sure I couldn’t see bone, and it was probably a piece of food, and talked about how everyone feels really bad on the third day, and did everything short of calling me a baby but in the nicest, medically confident sounding way possible.

    Even though I think she handled my concerns in a very unprofessional and careless manner, my reaction was worse. I meekly complied and hung up. That’s right. I didn’t fight, or argue, or inconvenience anyone late in the afternoon.  Maybe I was wrong. Maybe she was right, maybe I was just being a baby. 
     By the time I’d finally worked up the courage to call my own  dentist a little later hoping he could take a look; his office was already closed for the evening.

   That night when the pain became so overwhelming I began to cry; one question kept pounding in my head. Why had I doubted myself? I KNEW something wasn’t right.

  Why had I let someone I didn’t even know, who had no idea what the facts really were, talk me out of what I knew to be true?

   Unfortunately it isn’t the first time in life where I’ve shut up and put up and been a good girl and avoided bothering others at great personal cost.

     In my world in the past, - courage was not rewarded. Personal autonomy was not encouraged. Questioning and arguing with those in authority, or anyone ‘above’ you, was not well received.   Cheerful compliance, trusting submission, - self depreciation, and a willingness to sacrifice and suffer, - these were considered traits of value. Especially for a woman. I hate to be so blunt. But it is true.

 A woman’s place was to cheerfully support. Not to argue.

A woman’s place was to meekly accept good and bad without protest. Not to complain.

 A woman’s place was to respect those who were over her in rank. Not to Question.

Even if they were wrong; especially if they were wrong. If those over her were wrong, then a woman’s place was to pray, and double down on all of the above.

   Maybe it sounds like a bit of over simplification. – I mean, really, - am I saying that one twisted piece of teaching  I believed in the past is the reason that I didn’t grow a back bone and just speak up for crying out loud!?

   Hmmm.

     I know it may never have been intended, but one direct result of such wrong ideas of submission and a woman’s place means I did learn that my personal pain was not as important as attempting to perfectly fill my role.

    I did learn that trying to fight for my needs to be met was selfish and inconsiderate and a fault to be overcome.

   I did learn that doing ‘right’ or what was expected and willingly suffering was considered more important than risking being wrong.

   And even though I consider myself an intelligent and even confident woman who has grown and changed it is painful to realize how much the past still affects me, especially when I feel vulnerable.

  Today I have been thinking about the past ideas that were wrong.
  Also, I have been thinking about what is true.

   Here is the truth about me. I am not a person who is easily carried away by irrational fear. I do not tend to compulsively worry or obsess. I do not become distraught or crazed or emotionally breakdown in face of difficulty, pain or crises. (I save it for later, when I am alone) I have good instincts. When I look back over my life, - my biggest regrets are not following blown out of proportion concerns, - my biggest regrets involve failing to act confidently in what I knew to be true.

     I can trust myself. I know myself; at least I should. If I was my friend and heard my concerns, - I would have known they were serious. Why didn’t I take myself seriously?

   Here is what I wish I had said to the woman on the phone.

  “I know you probably get a lot of calls by people who are uncomfortable and want this to be over.  I am not the type of person to complain. I have a high pain tolerance and this is really getting to be too much. I am sure something is not right, and I’d like to know if you’d like me to drive clear out there tonight, or if it is something my local dentist can take a look at and address today.”

    Here are some things I have learned.

    A)  Our gut instincts and feelings (even irrational emotions) have a purpose. We have them for a reason. They are a gift of God; a vital function that tells us when something is wrong.
We can trust them.
    Not necessarily the first thought that occurs to us on how to solve them.
 (I feel so sad, therefore I will eat this entire pound of chocolate) But the emotions themselves are valid. They are true. They are there to get our attention and force us to look at something we would otherwise ignore.   They are like a check engine light in a car. Ignoring them or over riding them means internal damage is happening that WILL make progress impossible at some point in the near future.
   Physical pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. Emotional pain is a warning that something is wrong. Both are real. Both are crucial to protecting life.

  B) There is a word right now I kind of hate. It’s submission.
     I know it’s in the bible. I believe God’s words are true. But that word has been so distorted.
What I don’t know is how I believed certain teaching on what submission is for so long.  I do not feel that I totally grasp what healthy, right submission is, however I know for certain what it is not.
Submission is not suppression.
   It does not mean shutting up when you know you are right. It doesn’t mean that unruffled feathers are better than truth. It doesn’t mean that sweetness and stubbornness are incompatible. 
 It was not intended to weaken your strength, confidence or the warrior princess inside you.
Submission does not mean subjecting yourself or others to damage and hurt when it is in your power to choose otherwise.
Submission doesn't erase the commands of treating others with love and respect, and protecting the weak and vulnerable. Even when that includes yourself.

    C) There are circumstances in our life that are truly beyond our control. There are actual hard, difficult things that we cannot avoid, could not have foreseen, and have no choice but to endure. (deaths, sicknesses, tragedies, etc.)
       I do believe there is special comfort God offers those who are hurting. However, if you can do something about it; it does NOT qualify as justifiable, God honoring suffering.  Living a life of choices that allow destruction in your life (even at the hands of others you love) is no more honoring to God than intentionally walking around with a pebble in your shoe and wearing a hole in the bottom of your foot.
 
   Those of you who know me may be surprised at this post to some extent.  You may not have thought of me as a bashful Belinda. I can be very direct, and passionate, and loud and stubborn, but usually it is when I feel I am speaking for others. I have never had any trouble standing up for or protecting others, or specifically addressing ideas that I feel deeply impact other's lives. I have never hesitated to cause waves when I have felt others well being is at stake.

    But for myself? Not so much.
   And that is something else I’ve learned.
  
   Treating others with kindness and respect begins with how I choose to treat myself.
  Allowing myself to be neglected, hurt, ignored, wronged, or left to suffer without a fight, is wrong. Expecting myself to be able to suck it up, deal with it and move on in times of hurt and pain is not a meek and quiet spirit. It is not love. It is not the heart of God.

    Ironically, in my past, - I tried SO hard to achieve these lofty, loving, compassionate, bold, protecting, empowering ways to help others; completely refusing to offer them to the one person who needed them the most.
Me.

 The truth is, I’m worth it.                                                                                                                                 I’m worth loving, I’m worth protecting, and I’m worth listening to and caring for.                               And if I don’t believe it;  how can I expect anyone else to?

    Just a few thoughts I’ve had this week.  
By the way, - yes, - I called my local dentist early the next morning who got me in stat to flush and pack my dry socket (that had a LOT of exposed bone!!!!!)   The remedy was quick and simple and the relief was amazing. 
 The internal process has taken longer, and been almost as painful, but has brought equally amazing relief. 



 How about you, present mom, dad, or single guy or gal?
Do you take yourself seriously? Do you trust your instincts?
Do you listen to yourself and respect yourself enough to act?                                                                    Do you treat yourself as well as you treat others?                                                                                         Do you struggle to overcome ideas of what you ‘should’ be, or do, instead of recognizing what is true about who you are and celebrating you?

You may also enjoy, 'Teaching Your Kids to Tell You 'NO'.


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