POD – Write about this: What have you successfully, intentionally unlearned? And what, if anything, do you want to unlearn now?
The first thing that come to mind that I have successfully unlearned is that receiving help from others is a sign of weakness. I doubt that anyone ever used those words with me or anything remotely close. However, it was modeled to me by my parents and other adults in my world. Independence was the ultimate standard. I also heard things like, “Anything worth doing is worth doing yourself.” “I’ve got this.” “No, I don’t need anything.” I have found myself repeating those some words and exhibiting the same independent nature in adulthood.
The BING definition of independent is an adjective meaning:
free from outside control; not depending on another’s authority:
not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence:
not connected with another or with each other; separate:
I found as I grew in my walk with God, that I was never created to be independent. When I became a Christian, I placed myself under God’s control. I am dependent on God for my very life, including my livelihood and subsistence. He designed me for an intimate and personal relationship with Him and others. Wanting to be independent is something that the world around me showcases, but God’s Word provides a different view. It is one of interdependence.
Before I learned this, I was the woman who would have every limb full and yet refuse to allow someone to open the door, let alone take something off me to help. When help was offered I would quickly tote “I was a single parent, this is nothing.” I would be juggling more than I needed, but refuse an offer of help. I also was certainly not interested in anyone’s ideas on how I could do something different, better, or easier. It was my way and done by me.
I realize looking back that is a very isolated way to be. Eventually people begin to realize your not going to accept their offers of help, and they stop offering. Then no longer feeling like they are needed or wanted they eventually drift away to a distant acquaintance. People like to feel helpful, wanted and needed; at least I know I do.
Someone asked me how I felt when helping others. Helping others is something that I love to do, so it brings me great joy and satisfaction. I find it fulfilling, and although at times challenging, it blesses me to help others. That same person then turned my answer back on me and asked “Then why do you rob others of that same opportunity?” I pondered it, internalized it, and now that has become my question to others who learned that same message growing up. More often than not, it brings at least a little change in perspective about receiving help when needed.
When someone asks a specific offer of help, I am inclined to take it. There are times that the answer is still no, especially when I am at work in the middle of a few things that would require more time to bring the person up to speed than to complete myself. But generally speaking, if someone offers a specific way to help me, I am willing to take it.
Despite learning it is okay to receive help from others, I am still in the process of unlearning that it is okay for me to ask for that help. It was while reading that I was able to pinpoint the true problem. It was the Johari Window of the Unknown/Unconscience Self that leaped off the page as I read of someone else’s struggle with this same issue. My struggle with unlearning this is a two-fold. I need to unlearn 1) It is not okay to ask for the help 2) Your needs are not important.
If there is something that I really want, I don’t generally struggle with asking for it. I also have no problem asking for someone else’s need. I do struggle asking when I know people are busy or have a lot on their plate. I don’t want to be selfish or inconvenience anyone. I don’t want to interrupt anyone for my request either (Which on a side note is really the strangest thing because with my attention span I often interrupt for other random things without a second thought.).
These again were all message I learned growing up, either through observed behavior or comments. My mother wouldn’t ask for help in taking care of my father when he became harder to care for in the late stages of his cancer. I happened to come over and heard her struggle and had to intervene immediately and for a longer solution. My then ex-husband helped with dad’s bathing and we got hospice set up to give her some rest. She thought she had to do it all. Another example is my mom once was having a heart attack and sat in her chair with my siblings going on around her. One of them called me to talk to her because they were concerned and she generally listened to me, the baby. She got an immediate ride to the hospital, and an emergency surgery for five stents. She had an 89% heart blockage but saw that my siblings were busy and didn’t want to inconvenience me.
The second half of what I need to unlearn is tied to growing up feeling like what I needed was unimportant. There was a lot of dysfunction in my family when I was in my formative years. Being a young child, I did not understand most of what was happening around me. As such I had very distorted views and built my life upon those views because I didn’t really have anyone correcting them. I never felt like what I needed was important, especially emotionally.
I knew how to manipulate to get what I wanted from an early age. I was the baby in the family and with two siblings ten years older, they were pretty in tune to that. I could turn on the charm with just about anyone and get what I wanted in some way or fashion. When I hit my teenage years, I learned how to lie to get what I wanted. I became an expert liar, to the point if I told the truth it sounded more like a lie than the creative story I weaved.
Yet, I never learned how to get what I really needed. Instead I learned to minimize what I needed and settle for what I wanted. I filled the voids in my life with people and things that numbed the emptiness I felt from feeling like my needs didn’t matter to anyone. I have through prayer, connection with God, and a lot of discipline from God set aside most of those destructive tendencies. Yet as a result of not expressing and minimizing them for so long, I have a hard time identifying what I really need.
I know this is an area that God continues to work in to help me unlearn. I feel like God is showing me that I am truly known by Him. His Word promises to supply all my needs and He is showing me what I need. He is teaching me to express those needs to Him. He is teaching me to share those as I learn them with others. It is not an easy journey, but then I realize that it is in the difficult journeys that I grow the most. For now, I will just focus on the unlearning.
This post is prompted by Tara-Nicholle Nelson’s 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders.