I have heard a variety of voices from many different sources over my 53 years: growing up, into young adulthood and well into middle age. I admit that a majority of those voices have been denigrating and controlling. I have never had a cheerleader in my life, EVER. Until now, that is.
Over the past 2-3 years, I have developed relationships with individuals who are cheering me on. I don’t understand those voices’ motivations, but I gratefully accept their positive impact on my life.
Sadly, I had to dismiss all of the negative chatter in my life before I was open to hearing new, positive voices. I don’t know why an emotional disconnect was necessary, but it is a definitive truth for my own experience. I still guard my emotional ears, protecting myself from family and friends who, usually due to misguided allegiance to an impersonal religion or adherence to childhood labels, believe that conformity to a random norm is necessary for my life.
Growing up, religion didn’t play a part in the controlling negativity I was surrounded by most of the time. But, thinking about what I just wrote, I wonder if it did–religion that is.
One side of my family grew up in the Church of Christ, a denomination that believes legalistically that if something is not mentioned in the New Testament, then it is not allowed in any aspect of religious life. I don’t quite understand how they justify reading the Bible in English or using hymnals printed on a printing press, neither of which were available or used in the first century A.D., even, but that is the nature of legalism. It is man’s attempt to create some kind of order out of the apparently-confusing edict by Jesus Christ to love one another, one that seems completely disordered and impossible unless man builds a structure to contain it.
Love one another: Oh, that means I must tell you what you can wear if you are to be acceptable to God.
Love one another: No, a child born out of wedlock is not accepted by God.
Love one another: Musical instruments are not allowed in worship.
Maybe some of the voices I heard growing up were influenced by religion after all. In young adulthood, I admit that I invited those voices in and allowed them to impose new, even stricter norms. And this is where I met my husband. Yikes!
Controllers, often referred to as co-dependents, cannot be satisfied with being the best person that THEY can be. No, they focus outwardly, attempting to create structure for themselves through the lives of others. Maybe someday I will research this idea. I know that my estranged husband cannot function within a family where he is not completely in control. He moved over 700 miles away. It is easier for him that way. He still controls as much as he can, not letting even a penny out of his cold hands unless it fits his narrow view of family and responsibility.
I pity people who need to control the lives of others. Some do it by gossiping. There is typically one member of each larger, extended family who keeps the failings of their loved ones up for discussion so everyone can ignore their own flaws. There might be a strong patriarch who controls the family fortune or heritage (my family refused to help me work on discovering my roots as punishment for not speaking to another family member when I was at my worst physically and emotionally). There may be a matriarch who rules by terror or the withholding of affection and approval. Controllers are miserable people who are not even the least bit happy unless everyone around them is equally miserable.
For those emerging from a life that is no longer acceptable to them, whether it was in an abusive relationship or merely the decision to seek a different, better life, determining which voices you hear is vital.
How can you find your own voice when all you hear are the voices of others?
Silence the voices of dissent and negativity.
Embrace the positive voices out there. If you can’t find them, then you have not successfully silenced the raucous clamor of negativity yet.
Did I mention that I listened to music every waking moment of my day for at least a year after my second, permanent marital separation? Music was essential to silencing many of the voices that tormented me, voices that spoke to me even when they weren’t present. This was one of my favorites from that time:
Stupid Boy by Keith Urban
Well, she was precious like a flower.
She grew wild, wild but innocent.
A perfect prayer in a desperate hour;
She was everything beautiful, and different.
Stupid boy, you can’t fence that in.
Stupid boy, it’s like holding back the wind.
She laid her heart and soul right in your hands.
And you stole her every dream and you crushed her plans.
She never even knew she even had a choice,
And that’s what happens when the only
Voice she hears is telling her she can’t.
You stupid boy, you always had to be right.
And now you’ve lost the only thing
That ever made you feel alive.
This song tells a sacred story: little girls are precious, beautiful and a gift to mankind. They are not put on this earth to fulfill man’s idea of womanhood. If man is created in the image of God, male and female He created them, then that girl, that woman, that mother, that sister, that daughter is a sacred being to be treasured, respected, and honored.
I was born a spirited, sensitive, barefooted, exploring child who loved life. When I got married, I opened myself up to another person, loved and trusted like I had never done before in my life, only to be criticized and rejected for who I was as a person, all with the goal of making me submit before God to some ethereal model of religious womanhood. I was crushed and nearly destroyed before I tore myself away from that path and put myself on a new path to self-determination, one in which my personhood was paramount and my voice valid. Anyone or anything that does not respect who I am and who I want to be is not welcome in my life. Period.
What voices do you hear?