Today, I was scanning through Facebook - you know the daily practice of looking at everyone else's über cool lives - when I happened to see a post from someone from my mission. I frowned and thought some very un-nice thing. Then I realized what I was doing and stopped myself. "It's been almost 10 years, Reed," I muttered to myself. "Shouldn't you let it go?"
Here's the age old incident: I was on my mission and this person and I were on exchanges meaning that we were not normally coworkers but for that day, we were. She followed me around for a while as I tried to talk to people and tell them about the message of Jesus Christ. Then, as we went to get on our bikes, she told me, "You're not happy."
Frankly, her comment freaked me out. I was in last few months of my mission. I was in that time that I was supposed to have figured it all out. I was supposed to love what I was doing, love who I was serving and be happy. I thought I had been doing pretty good at it but her comment rattled me. Honestly, there were moments I wasn't happy - a lot of the time actually. I struggled my entire mission with self-esteem issues and struggled to feel that I was enough, doing enough and serving enough. I never attained my self-determined definition of "successful." And lots of people I worked with only further strengthened my idea of failure with their own two cents on missionary success. Fortunately, I met a lot of wonderful people who let me into their hearts and their lives, enough for me to forget myself and truly rejoice and enjoy the work. However, even to the very last, there were always moments when thoughts of everything that I wasn't rushed in and I was left gasping for breath, a break or a sign that I was better than I thought I was.
I think I sincerely had hoped that she who was so confident would watch me and say, "You're doing your best. The Lord must be so proud of you." Instead, I got an opposite response. It was as though she had just said, "I've got you figured you. I can see right through all your pretenses." I didn't humbly admit that she was right. I didn't even tell her that on that particularly day, I was actually doing quite well. Instead, I got mad. I tried to prove to her how happy I was which only gave her argument more fodder. I ended the night crying into my pillow.
I could never look that girl in the eye again and shrunk from any further contact.
It's been ten years and I've let myself remain scared of her and her judgment. It's laughable really. I'm sure that girl doesn't think bad things about me; in fact, I'm pretty sure she doesn't think about me at all.
This post though isn't about that girl or even about my mission. It's about the fact that there are always competing comments we will hear in just about every single thing we undertake. When we are met with opposing thoughts/ideas/voices, it is our choice then to determine what we will choose to listen to, what we will choose to believe in and what we will choose to act on. In fact, that's how it will always be. That's how our world works; we choose for ourselves.
Sure, this girl pointed out my weaknesses. I could have chosen to listen to the voice inside of me that insisted, "You're doing your best. You're going through a hard time - be patient with yourself." But I didn't. I gave her words power to hurt me, power to scare me, power to anger me because I chose those words to be the ones I listened to.
A friend whose husband finished his PhD a few years ago told me that one of the biggest things her husband learned during that time was to distinguish which voices/comments he should listen to. Should I listen to the voice that tells me that I'm a failure? Or the one that tells me that I'm capable at finishing what I've started? I stared at my friend in amazement when she told me this and suddenly realized that this was a lesson I wanted to learn. I want to distinguish which ones I should listen to and then which ones I want to give power to, to guide my actions.
We choose what we believe. We choose what we think. We choose who we listen to.
And that makes all the difference.