“Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” –Sharon Creech
I have a daughter who has borderline Asperger’s. It has been so difficult watching her grow up because, like most Aspies, she is socially handicapped. She longs for relationships, but she lacks the skills necessary to maintain them. Unfortunately, she also struggles with learning disabilities; math and English are her most difficult subjects. She cannot grasp abstract thinking, and she has a difficult time putting thoughts down on paper. She is incredibly bright and has an above-average intellect; there just happens to be a huge disconnect between what’s in her brain and what shows up on paper. It’s not surprising, then, that academic test scores are less than stellar even though she can give you a verbal answer that would blow you away. She is very insightful. You wouldn’t always know, just by looking at her, that she struggles the way she does. Unlike physical handicaps, her difficulties aren’t always so apparent.
It makes me think of my own handicaps. Mine don’t show either. They are emotional handicaps hidden behind a smile and a helpful demeanor. I know when they started. I was in the sixth grade, and everyone in my grade signed a petition called the “I Hate Lori Lynn” club. I went home that day with a crushed spirit. When I mentioned it at supper that night, my oldest brother laughed. I didn’t see the humor and was even more devastated. It is a horrible feeling to know everyone hates you.
The good news is that by the beginning of seventh grade, everyone had forgotten they hated me, and we no longer had such well-defined cliques among our classmates. The bad news is that the effect of the devastation from not being liked stuck with me into adulthood. It became a handicap. I continued to have a nagging sensation that there was something wrong with me. Everything I did or thought was filtered through the lens of “what will people think? Will they approve or disapprove? Will they think I’m weird? Will they like me?” I became a covert people pleaser.
Being a people-pleaser is exhausting. In the midst of trying to keep everyone around us happy, we lose ourselves. We no longer have boundaries; and not only are we frequently frustrated and disappointed, but the people we associate with can’t quite seem to feel comfortable being around us. We fail to have opinions about anything, at least genuine opinions that we are willing to share. We lose sight of the fact that God put us on this earth to be a unique individual with a unique purpose, and it’s not to be a people pleaser!
I am learning (and I am teaching my children) that it really doesn’t matter what other people think; what matters is what God thinks and what we think of ourselves. So, I am learning to filter things through a new lens. “What will God think? Will He approve or disapprove? Will He bless it? Am I being obedient to what He is calling me to do?” Ultimately, if the answer to any of those questions is “no,” then I need to adjust accordingly.
What about you? Do you struggle with a hidden handicap? What are your coping mechanisms? Are they working for you, or is the burden becoming too much to bear? Maybe it’s time to get rid of that load. Ask God for a new pair of glasses so you might see your situation in a new light.
Growing in Christ–
Physical handicaps are one thing, LORD; they are visible. Emotional handicaps, however, can be invisible, and we might miss many opportunities to show Your love to others because we fail to see their struggles. Give us eyes to see these “walking wounded,” that we might better understand them and help ease their burden. In Jesus’ name. Amen.