Twisting Your Pain to Fit Me

Why didn’t you tell me?

Didn’t you think how I would feel?

I actually had to sit down in a chair when she came at me. “To be honest, Cass, it had nothing to do with you. We didn’t tell anyone that didn’t actually find out themselves. We just needed time to heal and fix our marriage.”

Several years ago, before this blog, before any speaking engagements, before anything like this at all, I was asked to share my “story” in front of the women at my church.

Like a testimony.

I spent weeks writing and rewriting what I would say. I had a group pray for me. And then with flushed neck I got up in front of 85 women, many of whom had known me for years. I explained to them all I’d cheated on my husband.

It didn’t end there, of course. I talked about grace and miracles and forgiveness and rescue. And while it was not my most eloquent talk ever, it was certainly my most courageous.

At the end, the buzz of female voices reached a pitch that usually make men leave the room. It was then a friend walked up to me.

Why didn’t SHE know?

Why wasn’t SHE told?

SHE felt unimportant because she had not been “in the know.”

Of course I’d hurt others in my reckless crash through life those years ago. I’d hurt friends and sisters and parents and aunts, all of whom thought I was one person but turned out to be someone else.

But I was still healing too.

And my trembling friend, still reeling from my public revelation, made the story I’d struggled to tell through bare and vulnerable heart, somehow about her. Her pain was not about personal loss but about feeling left out.

It might have worked if she’d truly wanted to help me walk through it all years ago, but it had nothing to do with her helping someone in need. It had everything to do with her feeling as if she didn’t know something important.

And it pointed back to her.

My pain and our marriage journey was not about her but she’d made it about her feelings of being excluded

Oh, but I’m not innocent either.

Chad sometimes calls me in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of my struggle to get dinner on, help a nine-year-old write her book report and make sure my little one hasn’t abused the scissors or permanent markers.

“I’m going to have to work late tonight,” he says. “There is just so much going on and I can’t seem to get it all done. Plus I’ve got a raging migraine.”

My first thought isn’t about his stress or his headache.

It’s about ME and how it will affect ME.

I’M going to have to get the kid’s bathed and in bed. I’M going to have to clean up dinner on my own. I’M going to have to do it all by MYSELF without him. Because at that point I’ve reduced him to a tool to help me get my work accomplished. He is no longer a person but a means to an end.

His pain and stress is not about me but I’ve twisted it to focus on my own personal needs.

Selfishness.

It takes effort sometimes to remove myself from the situation that is evidently about someone else and listen, empathize and love. But it is imperative.

I can’t truly love someone if I’m thinking about myself. Any empathy is lost between the words ME and MYSELF and I stop listening as soon as my own problems and feelings of inadequacy lift up and plug up my ears.

But I’m going to try.

I’ll try not to be the friend who says {or thinks}, “What about me?”

Or the wife who says, “Can you be home, not so we can be together but so that you can take out the trash and feed the dog?”

Instead I want to be the one who says,

What can I do to help?

Do you struggle with this? Has anyone ever done this to you?

Comments

  1. Shilo says

    Holy Cow Sarah…you were talking about me!! Not really, but that is a struggle I deal with on a daily basis. Thanks for letting me know I am not alone!! I have learned in the past few years that I am an extremely selfish person…God is the only one that can even scratch the surface of the selfishness in me. I need to make that more of a constant prayer in my life. Thanks again Sarah.

  2. says

    I’m currently working through a very painful friendship hurt. I’m struggling.
    I feel selfish.
    I feel like my friend’s being selfish too.
    Struggling because I’m a people pleaser and I feel like my friend is asking more from me than my emotional checkbook has in the account.
    I shared my heart openly, spoke truth (finally!) in love with her but she still wants more…and her way too.
    I dunno.
    This post was just SO timely. God bless ya girl!

  3. says

    Wow, Sarah. We just talked about this last night in my Small Group. I. do. struggle. with. this. I think about how things are going to affect me. Especially when it comes to ‘sharing the load’ at home. I need to remove myself in order to know anything about compassion, empathy or love. I need not expect anything in return.

  4. says

    Ouch. the truth is hard to look at sometimes. I’m guilty of expecting my husband to do oh so much when he comes home from work at the end of the day….Thank you for giving me something to reflect on as I go through my day today.

  5. Suzi says

    Sarah, I read here every day but I usually don’t comment because I’m in a hurry (blah, blah, blah) but this by far is one of my favorites that you have written. Thank you. It’s so easy to make it about “me” and I should know better because I’ve been on the flip side of it too all too often. This was an amazing angle to view it all today in my current situation. Thank you for letting God use you to speak to me today.

  6. says

    Unfortunately, I know what you’re talking about. I make everything about me. It’s something the Lord has been working on with me for months, but I’m still not quite faithful in application. Thanks for yet another reminder to throw out my agenda.

  7. Lori says

    I do this. Mostly to my husband. Why are my expectations different for him than everyone else in the world? I do appreciate your words that come as reminder to think AND act differently.

  8. says

    It’s so hard to read that and relate. . .I don’t want to relate. I want to be the one that thinks about someone else before selfishly thinking about this effect on me…my night, my plans, whatever. Some days I pray that I will be intentional about seeing my husband and appreciating all that he does–and I fail miserably. Today I will try again. I really hate that I can relate to this: (

  9. Julie says

    Wow Sarah,
    I was hit with a similar thought just yesterday when I was out clearing the driveway of snow. At first I was mumbling/grumbling in my head and heart about why my husband wasn’t doing it, and thinking about all my friends who have husbands that come home at 3pm and help them and on and on and on it went. Then something (or Someone) stopped me and changed my thinking. I’m blessed to have a husband who works so hard to provide for our family, who puts in the hours required to be excellent at his job, who loves us all so very much. Then my thoughts turned to praise and thankfulness for the man he is AND for the abilities God has given me to do the things I do for our family. Then I was able to THANK God for the opportunity to bless my husband with a clear driveway when he got home.

    I love it when God changes my thinking:)

  10. says

    Men are the “bread winners” and have to work late to provide and like I say a “have to.” I know a divorce going on right now because he is the one who filed. You ask, what can you do to help? Have an understanding when he announces he has to work late. It’s really painful to a guy when the wife does not understand. Especially providing the income to meet the budget. My hubby says a wait at the door and a huge heart of understanding, appreciation, and having a nice dinner ready with the family, because he definitely has missed the dinner time. He’ll make it up. My prayers go out to you because I don’t think you are any way near being a selfish person. :=)

  11. says

    oh sarah. . .i empathize deeply with this post. out the gate of my devastation, not only was i abandoned by my beloved but also my best girlfriend. i admit, my badly wounded and shredded heart pulled away and turned inward quickly. . .desiring to protect the thin slivers that remained intact. and as i asked forgiveness for my inward turning and expressed the deep pain i felt from her by her turning away-not fighting for me or trying to be there her response was that i had ‘hurt her too much.’ admittedly, i could have done things better. i also recognize i was so blinded by my pain that the act of putting one foot in front of the other many days was truly an act of God.

    unfortunately, i am beginning to see some of this selfishness in my own heart. believing the lie that it’s time for something to be about me. something ‘good’ to happen for me. but i am beginning to walk down the same path my once best girlfriend did. a path that caused immense pain in my heart. and i don’t want to ever be that person. i want to live a life defined by selflessness. by grace. by a moment by moment emptying of me to be filled by Him alone.

  12. says

    I just want to cry! I am guilty of this with my husband. I’m also guilty with my friends. I do honestly care and want to help, but I also really want to know what is happening. I think I’ve said thank you to you about a million times now, but lets make it a million and one. You always seem to see right into my core and know what needs fixing. {Not that that was your objective, its just really ironic. All the time.}

  13. says

    I have had this happen to me after my divorce. My sister took it personal for a very long time and I am still not sure that she has really let go of it. Because of that, we do not really have much of a relationship today.
    I know I have done this in smaller things, like you stated, because of how it would affect my schedule.
    Such an eye opener. Thanks for sharing

  14. says

    Wow…I just had a self realizing moment like this the other night. We were on our way to dinner and my hubby had had a long day and wasn’t feeling great, but I was in a great mood. I was upset that HE was ruining that. I had to quickly remind myself that it wasn’t about me…he need a hug and someone to listen about his long day.

    Not always an easy thing to swallow.

  15. Heather says

    Sarah-This is so me with my husband at times. And just last night he was on a super important call with an unhappy employee. And all I could think past was he didn’t help me get the dinner out after our swimming lessons. So selfish. For about 20 minutes I was actually MAD at him for not helping. Let’s just say, “How can I help?” was not my perspective. I forwarded your post for today to Ben. Confessed my sin. And today is a new day. He is definitely getting better of me today. Thanks sweetie.

  16. says

    Sarah – I spent the last year going to a counselor and one of the BIGGEST things that I learnt is that somethings are just not about me. When someone does something that I think is wrong, it has absolutely nothing to do with me. It is not a reflection of me.

    I also do the same thing to my husband. I don’t pay attention to the fact that he is probably equally, if not more, as tired as me. I want him to be there to take the trash out and feed the dog; regardless! And you are right. It is selfish and if you were to ask me if I am selfish, I would say absolutely not. But you know what, I can be and I am trying to change that about myself too!

    As always – THANKS FOR SHARING!

  17. says

    Sweet Sarah, oh how you spoke to me with this one. I’ve been in a similar situation, where the friend somehow made my struggles, pain and depression about not being there for her. I don’t know if I handled it well, but I did what was best for my health, and focused on me. Explained in a loving way that I was sorry she felt that way, but I needed to take care of myself. It was anything but easy, feeling like I was letting someone else down, and it hurt being called selfish as I took care of myself. But over the past year of focusing on ME, I’ve been able to find the joy I was searching for, the relationship with HIM that I was needing, and faith that circumstances can get better. Is it being selfish if we take care of ourselves, when we can’t care for others?

  18. says

    Love, love, love this post. Thanks so much for taking the time to write it and share so honestly. Such a great reminder of how we should love others.

  19. says

    This came at such a perfect time for me. My husband was out of town last week for work and all I was focused on was how that was affecting me at home with our 3 little ones. This is a good wake-up call to remember our spouses are not “tools” – I love that reference. Thanks for sharing.

  20. says

    Oh wait – when my husband calls and his plans change my plans for our evening, it isn’t about me?

    Just kidding!

    I completely struggle with this and am ashamed to say I almost always try to make it about me … even asking ridiculous questions like, ‘Don’t you want to be home?” Uh – how insane. Of course he wants to be home!

    Yeah, so. maybe I will do some apologizing tonight.

    (If the conviction lasts.)

    Again – just kidding.

  21. says

    Perfect timing for a struggle I am in the middle of with mu hubby. He works full time and is going to school full time, yet I still get upset when it interferes with out time together. Thank you for the gentle rebuke…receiving the wisdom, and applying stat.

  22. Mandy says

    I struggle with this too! Way more often than I’d like my initial response to someone else’s problem is ugh, I don’t like how this is going to effect me. God has really been convicting me of this so I usually notice right away and can pray to change my attitude and put the focus back on the other person. Thanks for sharing this reminder!

  23. says

    well, of course -since it’s all about me, you know- i thought of a friend with whom i am currently struggling who does this and a time, like the one you described (but totally different), but same in the way that what happened in my life had absolutely NOTHING to do with her AT ALL and yet somehow was able to make it about herself.

    but, oh.

    oh, oh, oh.

    oh, how i do this. and i am thinking of a list of people to whom i do this, no matter how much i wish that i did not.

    my friend who, on her fourth ivf try, finally got pregnant and has been nesting and is about to have her baby now and my feelings have been hurt that she has really just been protective or her space and time and little family and it has absolutely nothing at all to do with me.

    or my sister whom i love, for whom i moved to a new town to support and help who, really, helps me in other ways just as much – and yet i get upset when i ask for something to which she must say ‘no’, as a single mom and a college educator.

    oh, yes. yes i do this.

    and i have to say…it also makes me think of when i get annoyed by people who don’t pick up after their dogs, but i am totally guilty of this, too. (not all the time, but definitely some of the time.)

    boo. thank you, god, for grace and tender mercy.

    glad that renews itself daily. yipes.

    xo

  24. says

    “Because at that point I’ve reduced him to a tool to help me get my work accomplished. He is no longer a person but a means to an end.”

    Guilty. Guilty. Guilty!

    Josh will call me from work, on a break from all he’s dealing with, and I’ll spend 15 minutes vomiting out my frustration, self-pity and yuck before asking him how his day is going. I tell him I can’t wait for him to get home, but is that because I miss him or because I need him to do something?

    I’m sorry that happened to you, Sarah. I can’t imagine the fear you had to overcome to be open and vulnerable with that group. I love that you didn’t let that poor reception from a friend deter you from continuing to share, because you have blessed and encourage so many by telling how God’s worked in your life.

    I don’t remember how it happened, but I’m sure glad I found your blog in this great big old interwebs. :)

  25. says

    I don’t think you can care deeply about someone and your life with that person without struggling with this. Your honesty is beautiful and you are certainly not alone.

  26. cher says

    Girl, I just have to give you one HUGE cyber hug!! I read your blogs all the time & can’t remember ever making a comment…but it’s time to. Sarah, you are beautiful…inside & out!! Your amazing open heart, so willing to be stabbed by the pains of the world…even the words or actions of believers…touches so many lives!! You may be unaware of how your openness is the exact thing some of us need that moment of reading your carefully placed words. Thank you for sharing your heart…the moments of its bleeding pours out into the lives of others hungry for truth. I thank you for that!

    *cher*

  27. says

    Me. I’ve been guilty of this. Selfishness is a daily battle when their are dishes to be done, floors to be mopped, and a full time job that I work. Thanks for the good reminder that it isn’t ‘all about me’. I know it. But everyday I have to let go of the idea of perfection and embrace imperfection. Even if that means I have a messy house. Better a messy happy house and a happy husband than a cranky perfectionist with a perfect house.

  28. says

    Wow. I have been in both positions. I am guilty of turning my older kids and my husbands “stuff” into mine as well… never really stopped to see it that way… Lord help me.

    Thanks for sharing. God bless.

  29. says

    You’ve done it again. Hit us where it hurts and we need healed the most. I call it Me-mode and I don’t like me when I slip into it. God bless you as you lead us on in truthfulness.

  30. Annon says

    i recently ended a friendship that 99 percent of our conversations where about HER and the flavor of the month, it usally bounce between three men. I quickly realized when it was too late than she didn’t care about me and my life or my struggles, she only cared about her. The tought part is that I see her at church and it’s hard not to which her evil but it’s improving.

  31. Kerry says

    Thanks for sharing this Sarah– beautifully written. I have been convicted of this lately, how often I am the center of my little world. My husband is in the last few months of finishing his master’s thesis, so he’s often going straight from work to sit and write for several hours at a coffee shop. He comes home exhausted, and so often my reaction is “what about me? I’ve been with the girls all day, I had to do baths by myself, blah blah blah.” Arg– why am I like that? Like any little sacrifice I make I need a parade thrown for me. Your writing hits the mark so often. I think it’s an indicator that you are led by God in what you share. I have to tell you too that I am *still* thinking through your “you may run for the hills” video… What does it look like to acknowledge the differences among ourselves as Christians, but remain unified? That is some good sharing if I’m still mulling it over all these weeks later! I think you’re great :)

  32. anonymous says

    Wow.. I’m just now reading this. I lost what I thought was a good friendship when my husband cheated on me and we didn’t follow “her” steps to healing. You put into words the truth in a way I was never able to express.

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