Am I appropriate enough, too much....who am I again?

As a woman, I know I don't fit into the mold of what some might feel a Christian woman should be. If I'm a dog breed, I'd say I'm a cross between a chihuahua, terrier and a labrador. There you go, what other woman do you know who would actually use dog breed personalities to define herself? If you can't tell already, I love dogs and my husband and I have three and we talk to all the dogs on the streets and in their homes when we go for walks. Yes, I am that person.

Some of you will stop reading right there, pick up your sandals and shake the dust off. I'm ok with that. Everyone has a right to their opinion. Anyway, why the personalities of a chihuahua, terrier, and Labrador, you ask? A chihuahua is small but fierce, gutsy despite their size; a terrier because they are great hunters (I don't hunt) and once they have their eyes on their prey, they don't give up until they have killed it; a labrador is loyal and loving but also a tad mischievous and playful.

I am a small person but I can be bold and direct, speaking my mind when I feel I need to do so, as well as being bossy and a little loud at times. My terrier tendencies are that I am tenacious when I have a goal in mind. I might get discouraged, but I will continue to hold on and not give up until it is pried away from me. I am also a fun-loving, laugh out loud type of person ready to joke around, and loyal and loving to those I love. You see, I'm really not that bad, except for when I get bossy and speak my mind, or gesture too much with my hands or laugh out too loud. Or so I am told.

Many years ago, when I was in a certain region of a South American country working alongside a local church as a long-term missionary, I was constantly told by men in authority in the church to calm down and be quiet when I laughed out loud or gestured with my hands. It wasn't during church services or disrupting meetings, it was normally with a small group of friends talking in an empty room or area and I happened to laugh the loudest at a joke. That wasn't the only time I was told to calm down and be quiet, as I later learned that women were expected to stay quiet and bear all things in that society and conform to a set of rules that only applied to them. There were other occasions of behaviour correction that had nothing to do with being a Christian or being in ministry but had everything to do with me not conforming to how they wanted me to be. At that time, I was unclear of my boundaries and erroneously thought I needed to conform to everything in order to fit in and be able to serve well in ministry. What I didn't realize was that I was unconsciously internalizing the belief that I was inappropriate because I didn't behave like all the other women and that I was offending the men in this particular church because I questioned things, was not quiet and had an opinion. Instead of assessing the situation and making a mental note to try not to laugh too much the next time I was on the church grounds, but feel free to do so outside of it and simply brush it off, I started to unconsciously conform even when outside of the church grounds in order to be approved so I could fit in and since the reprimands came from people in authority, I felt that perhaps I was not doing right by God's Word.

Those things I had internalized in order to fit in caused me many years of burnout, questions and sent me into an almost tailspin with my faith. What I didn't realize then was the way things had been said in order to shame me to conform to a certain cultural ideal bound me in chains. The freedom I had felt as a Christian in Canada going to church, having fun with friends, just being myself disappeared and in its place was fear. Fear of not being approved. Fear of offending. Fear of being me. My self-confidence plummeted.

It took me many years to be free from all that. And many more years later to finally feel that it was okay to let my true personality shine.

Thankfully, I am now serving in a country whose women have strong personalities and you won't hear anyone telling them to calm down and be quiet here! I have also learned much since then and am more aware of what people do to manipulate and control so I tend to ignore personalities like that and don't allow them opportunities to manipulate me. My point is this, people will always want to try to get us to conform to how they want us to be in. Not everyone will approve of us. People will also sometimes manipulate or shame us into having us behave like their ideal person. Any form of manipulation with the intent to control a person in order to have them behave in the way a certain person or people would want them to is not acceptable.

As with anything, we always need to ensure that we represent our King in a proper manner in order that His name is glorified so we also need to check our own behavior to see if we are behaving badly or out of line with what the Bible says. If we are, and we are corrected for it, we need to humble ourselves and submit to the correction.

Since that time and the time of healing after, I have become a stronger person with boundaries and I'm not always bothered by what people think of me. Yes, I am still human and I do sometimes wonder if certain people approve of me but I eventually brush the thought off and don't allow it to affect me if I have not done anything wrong. If people are offended as some people tend to be, they need to come to me and let me know what is bothering them in order for us to try to work out a solution together. If they don't seek me out to speak with me, I am not a mind reader and can't be held responsible for how they think which means I don't need to apologize for or feel bad over something I know nothing about.

If you're wondering whether you are appropriate enough, or if you're too much, I would like to let you know that if you're not deliberately hurting anyone or misrepresenting the Lord and His Word as a Christian, then simply keep on being the beautiful person you are while continually asking God to mold you into the woman He wants you to be. Only He knows what His masterpiece is supposed to look like and He will adjust your personality accordingly, building up one area to fit the calling He has called you to and/or diminishing another area for the same.

Meanwhile, don't drown yourself in thoughts wondering if you are enough or too much just to attain the approval of others because you won't succeed.

I know you won't. Do you want to know why? I'll let you in on a secret; it's because it's impossible to please everyone. And there's no reason to anyway.


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