Found my backbone. Can I give it back now?

I was dating a real winner in college one semester when I found out he was cheating on me. He called me a “worthless piece of sh*t,” and then I apologized.

Another time in college, a guy got hostile with me because all I would do was kiss him and nothing more. He demanded I drive him home. Not only did I drive him home, but I took him through the White Castle drive-thru because he was hungry. I also paid for it.

I once had a “friend” reunite the guy I loved with his ex-girlfriend. She also hid cocaine in a friend’s purse who was riding home with me from the bars one night. I let both of those things slide.

Then there’s the tall, gorgeous guy who wouldn’t commit to me because I didn’t “look like the kind of girl people expect to see him with.” I continued to jump at his beck and call for years.

Up until a few years ago, there might as well have been a tattoo on my face that read, “Take advantage of me. I’ll let you get away with it.”

I didn’t stand up for myself. I didn’t feel worthy of standing up for myself. I didn’t get angry with people, for fear I would lose them (no matter how awful they were). I simply didn’t have a backbone. In friendships. In relationships. At work.

Then something crazy happened. I moved to Africa. And I don’t know exactly how it unfolded, but I grew a backbone. When I returned in 2014, I was very, very different.

This had the potential to be a great thing. I started standing up for myself. I started standing up for others.

But, oh dear, has it caused some problems. While that same backbone has caused some people to have more respect for me, it’s caused others to not like me at all.

The issue is, I care. I care about doing what’s right. I care about best practices in my career field. And no matter how respectful or gentle I try to be about expressing my opinion (or often, outright FACTS), I get burned.

lips-2801702_1920Can I return my backbone, please? It was almost easier to NOT have a backbone. Because, let’s be honest, expressing your opinion can be exhausting. Calling people out for how they treat you is emotionally draining. Standing up for others is extremely risky.

Exhausting. Emotionally draining. Risky. Wow- having a backbone is such a blast.

I’m at a crossroads. I have become this person with a lot to say. A person with lots of ideas and opinions that I want to share both in my personal and professional life. But I’m starting to feel like it’s easier to stay silent.

It’s easier to not share my opinion.
It’s easier to not call people out.
It’s easier to not stand up for others.

Question nothing. Accept everything. Keep the peace. Care a little less. In some cases, care a lot less.

Easier said than done. I do care. I do want to share. I want to say the things that others don’t have the guts, or backbone, to say. I want to stand up for what’s ethical and right. But is it worth it? I’m not sure it is.

“Everybody says “say something”
Say something. Say something.
Sometimes the greatest way to say something is to say nothing at all.
But I can’t help myself. No, I can’t help myself, no no.
Caught up in the middle of it.
Maybe I’m looking for something that I can’t have.”
– Justin Timberlake, “Say Something”

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Strength and hope: not found in Michael

2496cd262b1d857060d03844ebc7d599--cassette-singers“I wanna start a party up in heaven,” I sang along with my cassette tape. The cliche 90’s beats and synthesizer sound filled my headphones. And I loved it.

I was in fifth grade, and my parents had just returned home from a long weekend at Praise Gathering with more than 10,000 other people in Indianapolis. It was a weekend full of concerts from Christian music’s greatest artists and was hosted by Bill and Gloria Gaither, two of Christian music’s elite.

My mom always returned with gifts, and this particular year, one of them was an autographed Michael English cassette tape. I was an instant fan.

Michael, whose song “In Christ Alone,” (not to be confused with the modern praise song by the same title), was an anthem for Christians across the globe, became my favorite Christian singer. I loved the lyrics from “In Christ Alone” that were, “My source of strength, my source of hope, is Christ alone.”

But it became clear, not just in 1994, but many times after, that often my source of strength and hope wasn’t in Christ alone. It was in people like Michael English.

Just two weeks after winning the biggest awards in Christian music at the Dove Awards, Michael English announced that he was leaving Christian music. He was a married man who not only had an affair with another Christian music artist, but he also got her pregnant.

My world exploded. How was that possible? How in the world could my favorite Christian artist do something like that? He had an obligation to all of his fans to be pure and godly! I almost felt personally victimized. I felt like his songs no longer held meaning. They were a waste.

A few weeks ago, I saw a Christian man and recovering addict post a photo of him and his girlfriend with a caption that read, in part, “I am so grateful for the hope you have given me!”

My stomach dropped. When I hear statements like that, I’m always brought back to Michael English. To Amy Grant. To Jim Baker. To more recently, Bill Hybels. I’m reminded of some people I personally looked up to in churches I’ve attended.

Our source of strength and hope CANNOT be in any human, because humans sin. Humans fail. Humans make mistakes. If you find all of your strength and hope in a person, you WILL be disappointed. They will let you down.

It’s ironic that the words in Michael English’s song so perfectly sum up how we’re supposed to live: “My source of strength, my source of hope, is Christ alone.”

Don’t put your hope in people. You can love people, they may even give you hope, but they cannot be your SOURCE of hope. That can only come from Christ.

“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'”
Luke 4:8 (NIV)