I was getting upset and frustrated in the middle of a recent discussion. It had been revealed that I had been less than truthful about some things and was therefore being labeled a LIAR. No one likes to hear about something they know they did wrong, especially if you’re human, male, and already trying to defend yourself. I was all three in that moment. Had I lied? Yes. Was it wrong of me to do so? Yes. Did my lack of forthrightness mean that I was deserving of the label, LIAR. No.
What bothered me most was not being confronted by my half-truths. It was the accusation that I was now identified by my mistake. That didn’t sit well. I found myself stuck in a defensive posture; trying to acknowledge my mistakes while also defending my character.
Before I get too far, let’s pretend that once this discussion started, I was told, “You’re a Hippo!” This is not a difficult conversation for me, because no matter what the other person says, I already know that I am not a Hippo. Quite frankly, it’s ridiculous. It is impossible for me to be a Hippo. I don’t even get defensive about it. I don’t even try to list all the reasons why I’m not a Hippo, because that would be just as ridiculous. I’m not going to sit there and explain why I am not a Hippo, because no matter how deeply the person believes it, the fact is that I am not a Hippopotamus. I am a person.
Being called a Hippo is one thing, hearing, “You’re a liar” is quite another. My heart sinks, my face changes visibly, my guard springs up, and I get defensive. I start to think, “Oh dang, am I a liar? Well, I’ve lied before! I must be a liar!” Critical thought and assertiveness fly out the window, and I start defending myself by laying out all the reasons I’m not a liar, trying to prove to them, and even to myself. I focus on defending myself against something that does not define me, as opposed to focusing on what does define me and letting a calm and loving response flow out instead.
There are many deep wounds and hurts that I tend to operate out of in these types of situations. If I was more confident in Christ’s definition of me and let Him have the last word about who I am then it becomes possible to respond with assertiveness, truth and love when that definition is questioned or attacked. The truth is I am God’s child, made in His likeness, bearing His image. Yes, I drop the ball and I make mistakes. Have I lied before? Yes. But that does not make me a liar any more than being able to swim makes me a Hippo. I am not my mistakes.
I am not a Hippo.
What are three words that define you?
Would those that know you best agree with that list?
How would life change if you better understood how God views you?
How might that understanding alter the way you respond to criticism?
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Jeremiah 31:3