As I listened to the lyrics, these words stood out to me over and over:
"I've lived in this place and I know all the faces,They got me thinking about growth and change, trying to become a better person, and how sometimes it isn't us that's so hard to change... but the expectations of us.
Each one is different but they're always the same.
They mean me no harm, but it's time that I face it,
They'll never allow me to change."
Everyone believes something of us. Sometimes that's based on things we've said and done, sometimes that's based on things they've heard that we've said or done. But, good or bad, people believe something about me, they believe something about you.
What if we wanted to change that? What if we wanted to do something different, be something different?
Could we do it?
I am a strong believer in the value of striving to become better. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that I don't like who I am now. But, everybody has faults, and I don't believe it to be a bad thing to want to make those faults... lesser.
Sometimes, though, I find that it's very hard to change in the face of other people's expectations of me. Those that know us, they do create expectations of our behavior. I think it's important to to understand and own that, much of the time, they create expectations based on our previous behavior. We acted a certain way last week, or last year, or last decade... We made choices, good or bad, and those all combine to create people's expectation of us... they're natural consequences, folks. They aren't applied with cruelty, but they ARE consequences to the choices we've made in the past.
But, sometimes when we're making efforts to change those behaviors, the expectations become a wall that we butt up against time and time again. Expectations can be a powerful tool to keep us STUCK. It's a bit like marching down the road toward a goal, when just as you are about to reach it, a police officer steps into your path, blows his whistle, and tells you to stop and go back.
"What?" you say. "But where I need to go is RIGHT THERE," pointing to a spot just beyond the officer.
"I'm sorry," he says, "but that won't be possible. Last year, you were here and we had to have the whole SWAT team out to clean up your mess."
"But, you don't understand," you implore. "I'm different now. I've been changing. You are absolutely right that last year was awful, but things are different now. Can't you see that?"
But, he is immovable. "Sorry. Go back."
So, you do... Sometimes the frustration is too much, and you DO go back. Why try if they're just going to foil you at every turn? Sometimes, you backpedal and try a different path to get to where you want to be, but they just show up again. Again and again and again, shutting down every attempt. And you want to scream "Can't you let me do this? I know I made this pit, but I'm trying to climb out of it, so stop throwing dirt on me!"
I'd like to jump over to the other side of the coin for a moment. I feel like this is getting to sound just a little more victim-central than I want it to, that it's solely "them" that are holding me or you or whoever back from becoming something better. Maybe, in some cases, that's true. But, as I've reflected on this topic, I've also realized that sometimes I'm someone else's "them."
Where do you fall on the spectrum when it comes to faith and trust in others? In general, I feel like I fall (and truthfully, this is where I'd LIKE to fall, so maybe that colors where I see myself) on the end where I am a trusting person. You start out with a clean slate with me, I don't need you to prove yourself. I will trust you. I will confide in you. But, if you break that trust? Well, now we're talking something different.
There's that saying which goes "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." In practice, it's more like 3 or 4 times with me. But once you pass that line, I find that I put up a heavy brick nothing's-getting-through-this-sucker wall between us. It's protection. It's self-protection. It's not necessarily that I believe you can't change or be different. It's just that I don't believe that you want the change honestly enough to risk you stabbing me through the heart one more time.
On the one hand, this seems wise, doesn't it? Someone hurts you repeatedly, why on earth would you let it continue to happen? I've thought a lot about forgiveness over the last month or so, and what it means. I saw a quote I liked that said something to the effect of "Forgiving you doesn't mean that what you did to me was okay. It means that I'm not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever." I liked that. If you realize someone is using you for a doormat, you can forgive them for using you as one without going back and lying down in front of their door.
But, I think for me that, often, my method of "not being used again" (or whatever the offense was) is to put up a giant wall around my heart that they cannot penetrate again. Once the wall is up, I find that I'm very hard-nosed and stubborn about it... I won't let you over the wall. I won't let you through the wall, under the wall, nothing.
Why go on and on about this?
Simple. Because sometimes, when I or you are trying to make changes in our lives, we need to realize the wall we're butting up against from others... the officer that keeps turning us back... They're there because someone has erected a wall against us... because we did something to them that hurt enough for them to need it.
You have to own that. Personal responsibility is IMPORTANT, and you have to own your part in your road's obstacles.
I need to back up to yesterday again. Writing tip: If you bother to outline things you want to say, it would be an awesome idea to actually refer to said outline when sitting down to write. I got off on the tangent of that whole analogy with the walls and owning that sometimes the walls we butt up against are walls that people have erected against us because of things we've done in the past, and I did want to touch on that idea of personal responsibility and not being all "oh poor me" all the time about those walls.
However, I also wanted to point out (and this is the part that I forgot) that when we're the "them" for someone else... when we've erected our walls, and we're hiding behind them with our archers and our knights... could it be that we're the wall that someone else is butting up against as they try to change, too? Are we the ones that are discouraging someone else, making their road to a better "them" that much harder?
I don't really know the answer to this. I'm not promoting not protecting yourself. Relationships are hard. People are flawed. Some people are mean on purpose, some people by accident. But, sometimes intent doesn't matter, and all mean hurts. I can't blame anyone for wanting to shield themselves from that hurt. I certainly do it myself. But I've come to know how frustrating it is to be working so hard to change your heart, change your thoughts, change your actions... and to butt up against those walls of being judged, not on who I am right now, but who I was last year or last month or four years ago or what-have-you. It makes me really think about the times I've been a wall to someone else, and how I can somehow better balance the two ends of the spectrum.
All of this said, jumping back over to the first side of the coin... Where does that leave us when we're trying to make those changes? When people look at what or who we've been and decide that we will always be "that," can we still make the changes we desire to make?
I have to believe the answer is a resounding "yes." I have to. Maybe, it's the optimist in me... maybe it's the hopeful in me. But I can't believe that the obstacles in our roads are insurmountable. Maybe we just butt up against that wall with a battering ram until we've run through the stone. Maybe we trick the policeman and sneak our way through a backroad to get to where we want to be, and once there, we can say "See? I told you I just needed to get right here!"
Or maybe we just have to step back a moment and examine why we're making the changes we are. Who are they for, really? Do we really need "them" to validate the changes our hearts tell us to make? Maybe it's just a matter of realizing what is important, understanding that sometimes we can't change what others do, and that maybe what people think of us isn't nearly as important as what we are.
If you're successful in the heart changes you want to make, maybe someday they'll see that... and maybe they won't. Either way, you'll know in your heart who you are, where you've come from, and what obstacles you had to climb to get there.
And maybe that's the most important thing.