I’m a “stuffer.” A person who takes boundary crossings, conflicts, disapproval, and negative comments to heart, “stuffing” them down inside. You see, I don’t like conflict. Never have. Instead of confronting people or issues that hurt or upset me, I bite my tongue, and stuff my true feelings way down deep inside of me.
At some point, though, I get stuffed beyond my limit. That’s whenever the rubber meets the road, whenever def con 2 is a real possibility. At capacity, it may just take one little comment to cause my stuffing to come bursting out. And woe to the poor person who happens to be on the other side.
I came to this realization in light of events in my life over the past month. Listening to Lysa TerKeurst, founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, and author of the newly-released “Unglued,” I see myself in her descriptions. The book is a must-read, and has been instrumental in getting my raw emotions under control.
As I look back over my 49 years, I see it time and time again. Lots of stuffing, until I burst. Then I make a resolution not to allow boundaries to be crossed…but guess what? It happens again. And again.
For example, at age 9, my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. By the time I was aged 10, in the fourth grade, she had gotten worse, and was in much pain on a daily basis. My mother (her daughter-in-law), and various aunts began to take turns staying with her overnight. She needed constant care. What a showing of love that was for my grandmother! But as a 10 year old, I just knew that 2 to 3 times a week, my mom wasn’t going to be at home. I had to stay with my other grandmother. To make a long story short(er), I stuffed. Big time. Those feelings of stress, anger at my mom being gone, to other various feelings I had. The stuffing burst in the form of a stomach ulcer. Yep, 10 years old with an ulcer. Do you think I was a worrier?
I kept the peace in friendships at all costs. If you hurt my feelings, don’t worry about it. I would never tell you. If you overstepped your boundaries in our friendship, asking me for something personal like say, money, or some possession? I’d make up some lame excuse as to why I couldn’t. I’d never say, “You shouldn’t be asking me for this in the first place.”
Marrying Mark was the best decision I ever made. He was strong, forceful, confident. He was loving, genuine, and hardworking. But he was not a pushover. And if someone overstepped their boundaries with him, he would let them know about it, in no uncertain terms. Oh how I envied that trait!
He was so good at dealing with problems, I basically deferred them all to him. He couldn’t for the life of him understand why I would allow a few folks to mistreat me, take me for granted. He urged me to stand up for myself. But it was easier to do the opposite.
Then he was gone. In a blink of an eye, I went from a supporting cast member to starring role. Man, it’s a role I never wanted! But what you want and what you get are usually two different things, at least in my humble experience.
I’ve had an awakening, of sorts over the past 6 months. Now that he’s gone, and I’m responsible for the well-being and care of my family, I find that my stuffing capacity has greatly diminished. I feel more confident, setting boundaries with relationships and people that I have avoided in the past.
It’s empowering, to say the least. And scary. Not to mention folks that have pegged you as a pushover for a decade are seeing a side of you that they may not like very much.
I admit it. I make mistakes. I let go of a multitude of “stuff” a few weeks ago, and I am not proud of the way I handled it. I had to get real about certain situations in my life. I cannot “fix” them, nor can I continue to enable them to keep disrespecting me. Still,as a Christian, I could have done a better job of ending things. But I am human. I sin. I need to ask for help multiple times per day from my God and my Saviour.
And though I may not have handled the initial burst of “stuff” in a 100% Christian-like manner, I am proud to say that I have handled the resulting collateral damage as Jesus wants me to. My response? Simply no response. Just prayer for the situation and those involved.
So I continue to work on me. I’m glad God has patience. And forgives. Again and again. I’m trying my best not to repeat mistakes, because if I am truly repentant, it means I’ve turned 180 degrees and I’m not planning on doing the same bad stuff again.
I fall. I get back up. I fail. I try again. I sin. I ask for forgiveness. I repent. I do things differently….sometimes I think I need one of those shirts you see on kids, “Be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet.”
My friend Leah, also on A Widow’s Might writing team, tells me of the inscription on Ruth Graham’s (Billy’s wife) tombstone. It is perfect. Written on Mrs. Grahams stone is the following: