So I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed today and came across this picture:

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Don’t you love things like that? So nice and encouraging! In a two-sentence quip, they have told you that you’re fine just the way you are and made you feel better regardless of someone else’s cruelty to you. They’ve made your day better!

Well, maybe. I don’t know, maybe I’m being nit-picky here, but it seems to me like they just gave the entire internet a blanket statement that may not actually apply to, well, everyone on the internet.

For one thing, sometimes people say the right thing, but in the wrong way. For instance, a COH is often still struggling against the chains they were raised with–the chains of guilt over throwing so much as a meat tray or yogurt cup in the trash. The chains of desperately wanting a clean, organized house but never having been taught how to manage things to make it happen. Conversely, a COH can trade the chains they were raised with for new, opposite (but still binding) chains. Chains of refusing to ever keep a single thing that doesn’t serve a 100% distinct and immediate purpose (even if they later discover that maybe they did need that after all). Chains of being so terrified of ever having a house “like their parents’ house” that they clean compulsively, stress out over the slightest thing being out of place, and generally become unbalanced in the opposite direction of their hoarding parent.

So in either circumstance (or a combo platter–paranoid of having a house like their parents’, clean obsessively, wear themselves out, end up not doing enough for several days, and so the cycle goes–yeah, that’d be me), there may be occasion for a friend to speak up in an attempt to help the COH understand this area in which they need growth. And the words the friend chooses may not be exactly what the COH needs–especially if the friend isn’t also a COH. Outside perspective can be good, but can also be frustrating because they don’t really know what you’re dealing with or the building blocks in your life that led to it. BUT that doesn’t mean that nothing the friend says matters. Don’t throw the wheat out with the chaff, as it were. Even if they got frustrated and accused you of things that weren’t even applicable, don’t assume that nothing they said applies.

Of course, there are also circumstances where a friend might say exactly the right things, but the COH feels defensive anyway. Particularly if your whole life has been about trying to pretend there’s nothing wrong with you or your family. It’s easy to feel defensive. It’s also easy to say, “Hey, I’m not going to let someone else’s bitterness change who I am!”

But here’s the thing: maybe who you are needs some changing.

Now, I’m not saying you should change who you are completely, or based on every single thing anyone ever says to you. The very core of your being, the essence of who you are, is something I believe can be disguised but ultimately does not change. But the sum of all the parts of your life, the person who’s too defensive or who’s so guarded they refuse to let anything get to them, the person who takes things too seriously or who uses humor to dismiss serious subjects so they never have to face them, the person who’s ridiculously disorganized or who constantly stresses out about everything–everything–needing to be in its place; whichever person you have become, that is not the person you are at the core of your being.

Everyone is still a work in progress, everyone is still changing, everyone is still growing. And yes, it can feel very frustrating when you are already aware of these things and, in fact, actively working on them, and still people feel the need to make comments–even bitter comments–to you about your faults. But that still doesn’t mean that you should dismiss everything they said as the irrelevant comments of a bitter person.

Because when you refuse to consider it at all, when you refuse to acknowledge your need to change or that there’s still more work to do in areas where you’re trying to change, then that is no longer their bitterness trying to change you.

It’s your own bitterness stunting your growth, keeping you stagnant.

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