Many of us struggle with recurring life issues I call unfinished business. These are past hurts or sins that lurk at the edges of our daily lives and that haven’t been fully cleansed by the touch of Jesus. In this Dear Me I address a piece of unfinished business that stems from being the eldest child and the “good child” in my family. By default, that left my brother being the “bad child.” Those labels had far-reaching ramifications for both of us and the way we saw ourselves. I knew inside that the labels were both unfair and inaccurate. Still, I learned certain patterns of behavior that led me to both goodness and unhealthy ways of living. Do you struggle with pieces of unfinished business?
Dear Me, I’m sorry you learned at a very early age that to be “good” meant being passive and hyper-obedient. I’m sorry you stood with your hands behind your back so you wouldn’t touch anything, break anything. I’m sorry you learned to please others at great cost to your own well-being.
You learned to meet other people’s needs over your own. Actually you buried your own wants and preferences so deep you can’t always identify them, even today. I’m sorry for that loss to your personhood.
You learned early to comply, to be passive, to try to foster peace when anger flared all around. You tried so hard to smooth over discontent and frustration of those in control. You took on responsibilities too big, too hard in the quest to be acceptable.
I know it’s hard for you, even today to let things be. You try to fix, to run ahead, to smooth over, to cover for others in an effort to keep the peace, to satisfy others’ desires, and to attempt the impossible—to make the world just.
You know the task is impossible, but the habits are so ingrained—they run so deep.
And yet you are often profoundly disappointed. You say you don’t care, you don’t mind, it doesn’t really matter, but that’s a lie. You wish, you sometimes hope for things that never happen. You become cynical, bitter, because you’re left empty again. Better not to want in the first place. The stark realization hits hard. You’re actually quite alone.
You’ll forgive me if I, who always deferred to others, reach out and grab something on occasion. I’m overcoming a lifetime of, “That’s okay, you go first.”