Sunday, September 13, 2015

Believing the Good

I am not generally someone who needs a lot of external validation.  Like everyone, I have my insecurities and a great many flaws, but I try to see my strengths and be humble about my failings and move forward with confidence that the Lord will make up the difference.

But once in a while, I get into a terribly sour mood. . .about myself.  This last week was one of those times.  The medication I require to prevent my brain from betraying me has made it feel as though my brain has betrayed me.  One of the side effects (which are very few and minimal--I am grateful for that) is that I have decreased verbal dexterity.  I often find myself at a loss for a particular word;  not a nuanced, specific word from the large vocabulary in my mind, but rather, something along the lines of trying to give the kids very simple directions for chores and suddenly can't find the word "bed" or "plate" or some such.  Or I am trying to get out a simple sentence, and the right words come out but in the wrong order, so I have to repeat myself three times before it all comes out correctly and makes sense.  When I'm being logical, I know it isn't severe and probably isn't even noticeable to anyone but me, but I end up occasionally thinking to myself, "As if I weren't spastic and socially awkward enough, let's throw this in to the mix."

Several times on Friday afternoon, people complimented my handwriting:  its so beautiful, its so neat and even, its so small.  I had noticed my writing more myself in the previous few days, but in a different light.  I had been thinking how sloppy my notes were, because I have to write so quickly during class to record everything I need, and had been fighting the urge to rewrite them to make them neater (I really, really don't have time to be rewriting notes).  And in looking at them and getting that urge, I know in the moment how insane it is--how very neat and even they are on almost anyone else's scale.  Those around me look at it admiringly, and when I see it,  small and even and neat, it reminds me of things I struggle with about myself:  the anal-retentive, perfectionist streak that is always lurking just below the surface threatening to give me an ulcer (I had spent the morning internally pouting because I had earned a 91 on my exam, which was an A-, not a full A);  the tinyness, the result of a tremendous desire to hide that I have to constantly fight in order to enjoy my life (I was just thinking that six days in a row interacting with people every week was about five too many).

And as my friends complimented me, I had a moment where the better part of my nature managed to shove all that aside and sincerely accept the compliment.  Its such a petty thing, which is exactly why in that moment it made me realize that in being so hard on myself, I was being completely dismissive of the good that these individuals--classmates and friends--saw in me.  I was a little embarrassed how flippantly I was dismissing the value they saw, even if in something that is ultimately trivial.

And in the midst of all that, I thought of my grandma.  She had terribly sloppy handwriting.  I used to assume that that was because she had arthritic hands that had spent too many years swelling after a full day of working with cattle or horses.  But then last year I was able to spend a lot of time immersed in old family treasures, including the letters that my grandparents had been exchanging when they were about my age.  It turned out that Grandma had always had terrible handwriting.  And every page of that writing delighted my heart.  Even seeing her writing on things like old receipt books or phone notepads gives me joy, because in those wide, scrawled letters I see years of birthday cards, letters that came to me when I was far from home, checks I kept insisting she not write for lawn mowing.  Because I loved her, my Grandma's handwriting was never anything but a treasure to me.

She had actual flaws.  But I didn't care.  I loved her so much, and she loved me so much, that the flaws never mattered much to me and I readily saw all the tremendous amount of good there was in her.

When someone who loves you compliments you, believe it.  If you strive to see the good in others and mirror it back to them, they will see the good in you, too, perhaps in moments when you may have temporarily forgotten it yourself.  That's how we help each other get better as human beings: we reflect the good we see in each other, and strive to be worthy of the love of the good people who bear our burdens with us.  

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