Confession: I’m a Manipulator
Week 3 of Cultivate Book Club Fall 2016
Chapters 3 & 4 of Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst
Hi~ I’m Tammy, and I’m a manipulator!
Starting off with those words just feels honest. I don’t consider myself a manipulator, but as I’m becoming real with myself and God about my struggles with others and the issue of rejection, I know it’s true. HOW do I manipulate, you ask? Great question. I manipulate with secret strings of expectations. Expectations I have of others, of which they are completely unaware of, but nonetheless they are there. And as I myself am on the journey of living loved, I’m becoming increasingly aware that much of me not feeling loved, has to do with these secret unmet expectations.
Here’s how this looks for me… I do things for others! Good things. Things that are kind, loving, and serving. These are good things to do, and some part of the doing is rooted in right motives. BUT I’m realizing that an even greater motivation for me lies in these secret expectations. Expectations that if I do for others… all that doing will somehow boomerang back to me, and it’ll earn me love.
Key words here: earn love
And then… I’ll be earning SO MUCH LOVE with all this doing, that surely I’ll feel loved… like really really loved.
Except~ here’s the thing. It didn’t work… It’s still not working! I struggle feeling loved.
Instead I find myself exhausted, constantly comparing the perceived return others are getting for their doing, versus the return I’m getting for my doing… which leaves me bitter and angry and not feeling loved at all! Quite the opposite in fact, it leaves me feeling heartbroken> which makes me feel unsafe> which makes me withdraw> which causes deep divides in friendships> which causes me to feel alone> which leaves me feeling unloved!
“But I….” sent you flowers, bought your lunch, remembered your birthday, let you go first, took you on vacation, let you live in my house, remembered your kids’ special events, made your party really special, listened to your sorrows for hours on end, instead of doing homework with my children or cooking dinner for my husband… the “BUT I’s” are endless. And what I’m really saying is…WHAT ABOUT ME?! Remember all the things?……… You owe me. You owe me love!
SO tangled, messy, and ugly, I know!
But what’s even worse than admitting all of this ^ ^ ^ is realizing that although I say God is first in my life, how not true it’s actually turned out to be. You see, much of my doing does have God in mind… What would He want me to do? What would He want this person to know about his/her worth? But the doing isn’t out of a place of love, it’s out of a place to feel loved. Instead of looking to God to feel loved, I look to others to define my value and worth, and worthiness of love. The doing is somewhat of an acrobatic trick. Like…..“Hey~ look at me! Awesome, right.” (insert ‘thumbs up’ emoji here) RIGHT?! (insert ‘BIG eye-stressed face’ emoji here) I let my value, my worth, my sense of worthiness for love, rise and fall on others. And, as you might imagine, this has turned out to be disastrous for this girl.
So how do I cut ties with this unhealthy, emotionally draining, bitterness seeding, exhausting pattern of trying to earn love?
Good question. I’ll let you know when I figure it out! 🙂 J/K
But seriously~ by getting REAL! REAL is just the starting point!
Real with the fact that I first look for love from others, instead of God. That I put a higher value on the love of others, than the love He has for me. By admitting that I have secret motives when I do things for others. And most importantly, that as much as I want to believe God comes first in my life~ He actually hasn’t/isn’t. Evidence for this looks like this……. He doesn’t have the first moments of my day~ that’s typically reserved for checking Instagram (because seriously~ what could I have possibly missed from just hours before when I went to bed?). He doesn’t have my first attention.That attention is reserved for thoughts like these….… “Hmmm what can I do today so someone will think I’m awesome (( and love me))?”. In reality, He’s over there all like… “I’m right here, I already love you~ no doing necessary”. He isn’t my first go-to when I need help or advice, instead I spend hours worrying, playing through scenarios of how I can best control the outcomes, or I text friends. Prayer of course comes later… after I’m completely stressed out of my mind. I realize that thinking about God, and talking to others about God isn’t the same as spending time with God… and I haven’t been doing much of that. Yep… these are some of the things I’m having to be REAL about. John 15:7 says,
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you,
ask whatever you wish and it will done for you.”
And what do I wish for? I wish to be loved! And the truth is… I never feel more loved than when I’m abiding in Him. When I spend time reading His word, soaking it in, letting it convict me, shape me, cleanse me, love me. And when I abide in Him, when I give Him my first moments, when I go to Him first with my everything-going-on in my life… I feel loved. Loved in the deepest places in my soul. When I abide… I’m reminded that He delights in me, that He dwells with me, and that I am not alone. And I know that when I do this, I’m good! I know who I am, and what I’m worth. And I don’t have to hustle to do for others, as a reminder. I already know. When I’m abiding in Him~ all the doing for others comes out of the right motives, not the secret one with strings attached.
So the answer to “How do I cut ties with this unhealthy, emotionally draining, bitterness seeding, exhausting pattern of trying to earn love?” Get Real + Abide!
And this is my recommendation to you, as you journey towards living loved as well….Get Real about where you’re looking for love, and what behaviors you’re doing to find it. Are there any hidden motives involved? Do you struggle (like me) feeling loved by others because you have unrealistic expectations that honestly no one could ever meet, and how these unmet/unrealistic expectations might be at the root of some of the rejection experiences that have caused us to question our worthiness of love? Then ABIDE. Let Him be the source that is filling you with love. Be reminded that He delights in you and dwells in you. When you are full of His love, you will be more able to live loved!
Live loved friends,
This week’s statement to hold on to:
“If I’m rooted, rejection may discourage me but it won’t destroy me” ~ Melody Workman
This week’s small group discussion & journal questions:
- Was there a time in your life when you experienced rejection? What was that like and how did you feel?
- Why does isolation feel safer than connection sometimes? Do you struggle with going into your “cave” when you’ve been rejected?
- Read Ephesians 3:14-19. What do these verses tell you about Jesus’ love for you? How does that make you feel?
- What’s your biggest struggle with living loved? How can you practice this on a daily basis?
- Is there someone you have rejected? Or treated unfairly? Is there someone who has rejected you? How can you reach out to them with the love of Jesus this week?
- Spend time praying together. That each one of you can live these truths out in practical ways this week.
Oh man thanks so much for pouring out all that realness for us Tammy. I was nodding along to so much of what you shared! My life has been one long battle of understanding the true grace-filled unconditional love of God. Throwing off legalism and the self-righteousness of trying to earn love from people and even from God. The intense relational fears that are deep in my heart stem from my codependency with the general public… anyone and everyone who can validate me. Approve of me. Motives mix. Manipulation subtly flows. But perfect love casts out fear… Oh for grace to trust Him more. To let His love in. To contently abide. Thanks for this post!!! Love you so much – with no strings attached! ((Hugs))