Tag Archives: Friendship

Intimidation. It’s So Intimidating. Or is it?

Intimidation.

We all struggle with intimidation at times, but for some reason, I’m hearing this word more than usual.

“She intimidates me. I am so intimidated around her. He is so intimidating.”

Bullies exist, this is true. And they use all kinds of tactics. Screaming, shouting, lying, gaslighting, threats of all kinds, physical violence, and more.

I’ve been around bullies all my life. When I was young, they did scare me. And I usually did whatever they pressured me to do.

But as I got older, rather than just feeling fearful and going along with the pressure, I gained some awareness of the pattern.

My response to bullying didn’t change right away, but as soon as I realized the way that bullies operate, and I realized the way I reacted, I felt annoyed. And angry with the bullies.  And disappointed with myself.

Every time I let them get away with it, I got weaker. But in another sense, I got stronger too. Like pressure building inside a canister, each incident pushed itself on the one before, and I grew up a little.

I had to make a choice.

Was I going to continue to be passive?

I saw passive-aggression emerging in me, and I didn’t like it. Passivity creates underlying resentment. Passivity also creates a false dichotomy of equating any strong person with every bully. Underlying resentment seethes and waits for opportunities to get back at bullies in sneaky ways, and passive-aggression is born.

Was I going to continue to be passive?

 

In my experience, passive-aggressive people are drawn to true strength for two reasons. One, they lack true strength and want to draw on someone else’s, and, two, they are looking for a safe place to take out their resentment on actual bullies. I did this at times, and I’ve watched other people do it.

The pattern is a vicious cycle. By entering into relationship with true strength and abusing it, the passive-aggressive person never deals with their underlying fear, they only settle for the appearance of courage.

And in the process, they destroy their relationships with healthy people who could help them most and love them best.

As I faced my passive-aggressive tendencies, I prayed for ways to grow in true strength.

I love the verse that says, “Where you are weak, He is strong in you.”

Whenever I felt bullied or dominated by someone who had sniffed out my weakness, I whispered that verse to myself.

Where you are weak, He is strong in you.

 

And over time, I saw myself responding in new ways.

A sentence would pop out of my mouth that I had no idea I was about to say. I heard myself saying “No” a lot more. I gave myself permission to do things like rest, to stay home from parties and holiday celebrations, to protect time at home with my family, to be very particular about the people who were allowed in my closest circles in my most vulnerable times.

People will take everything you have if you let them.

And they often don’t even know they are doing it. True strength sets boundaries so that secret resentment doesn’t grow and lash out at some random time. True strength respects boundaries for the same reason.

We have to help each other take care of ourselves.

True strength sets boundaries. And true strength respects boundaries.

 

Passive-aggression does the opposite. It does not respect boundaries or personal limits, it makes demands on them. And in this way, many people who were bullied become bullies, pressuring and manipulating strong people, just to see if they can, to make themselves feel strong.

Crybullies are born this way, people who use their pain and weakness to pressure others to cave to their every whim, emotion, and feeling.

It doesn’t matter if someone is screaming at you or crying at you to get their way, or if you use these tactics to get your way with someone else–bullying is bullying.

And intimidation is intimidation.

Or is it?

You can’t control what bullies do. But you can control your own behavior and your response to their demands and pressure.

Merriam Webster online dictionary defines the word intimidate:

Intimidate:  To make timid or fearful. To frighten. To compel or deter as if by threats.

I take a little issue with this definition.

Intimidation is not an automatic guarantee that someone is creating a feeling of fear. No.

Intimidation is an attempt to create a feeling of fear.

Early on in my journey I heard a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

I didn’t exactly understand it when I first heard it, and I am still growing in this, but I’m getting there.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Knowing who we are in Christ is paramount. When you understand who God is, the King of the Universe, Maker of All Things, the Ultimate Good, and you know what He calls you?

Fully absorbing the identity God has for you changes everything.

He calls you beautiful. He calls you fearfully and wonderfully made. He calls you kings and priests. He calls you His. And when you are weak, He is strong in you.

Identity is first.

Fully absorbing the identity God has for you changes everything.

 

Actions are born out of identity.

Passive-aggressive behavior and bullying behavior are born out of an identity that says, “All life is a power struggle, and I’m afraid I’m going to fail, so I am going to take power for myself any way I can get it.”

But true strength is born out of an identity that says, “God is strong. I am His. Where I am weak, He is strong in me.” True strength doesn’t pretend to not have weaknesses, but it lets the goodness of God trump the temptation to enter into power struggles with bullies. It refuses to allow their words and actions to speak more loudly into our lives than the power of God.

I see myself changing. I see myself speaking up where I once was silent. I see myself standing up for those who are weaker than I am now. I see changes in myself that I could never have brought about on my own. I’m so thankful for the gentle invitation of God to constantly seek a better way.

His ways are higher, and they work.

Don’t let someone intimidate you.

If you hear yourself saying, “That person intimidates me,” take it back. Quick.

If a person is truly a bully, ask God how to handle it. Don’t give in to things that are wrong out of fear.

If a person is simply strong, and, in comparison, you feel weak, don’t falsely accuse them of being a bully and then distance yourself with passive-aggressive behavior. Draw near to them, and share your struggle. Ask them how they grew in strength. Most people aren’t just born strong. Like muscles, emotional strength is gained with effort over time.

Every time you resist intimidation, you get stronger. Every time you resist withdrawing and criticizing someone strong because you feel weak, you get stronger. Every time you choose action over passive-aggression, you get stronger.

We have a choice on how we respond to the stuff that people throw at us. Resisting intimidation, real or imagined, makes us stronger every time.

***

Father, I ask you to heal us from the places inside us that say “yes” to intimidation. Heal us from the places in our hearts that have been wounded by bullies and are stuck in an old pattern. Help us to value true strength in relationships. To not abuse it, and to grow in strength in ourselves. Remind us of Your strength in us wherever we feel weak. Grow us in the ability to stand up for what is right, to resist intimidation in every form. Make us stronger. In Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day: The Year of the Women.

I did not want kids.

I did not want a husband.

I wanted a doctorate. I wanted to wear silk suits. I wanted to teach English and write books and hide away in a mysterious house with a cat and read during rainstorms.

By myself.

And then, somehow, I married the sweetest man, and we had the sweetest little girl. And she clung to me like wind to a vine, and I could not leave her.

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My husband and I lived in old houses that we could afford on a young man’s salary. Houses that we made into homes, houses where we saw architecture, and real wood, and potential. Houses where I sewed curtains, and peeled stickers off the walls, and painted cheap paneling a bright and glossy white. Houses where my husband fixed all the broken things, drains and drawers and door locks.

We planted gardens in those places, patches of tall sunflowers that camouflaged the piles of trash in the train yard behind us, onions and tomatoes and peppers that made us feel rich when the harvest came in.

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Houses that we were sometimes mocked for choosing. “You guys are better than this,” we heard.

Those houses are beautiful places in my memory, places where we brought tiny babies home wrapped in soft blankets, where we entertained lifelong friends, where we learned the real stuff of marriage, self-sacrifice and forgiveness. And incidentally, places where we lived below our means instead of beyond. Where we saved money that launched us into home ownership later on, when those same mockers were still renting the same houses on the same dusty streets.

Coffeehouse drinks were a treat. I did not buy kids’ meals when we met at fast food places for playdates. Eating out was a quarterly event. I got my hair cut short and then let it grow for months to skip haircuts. I did not buy designer clothes unless I found them at Goodwill. I pinched my pennies so hard they squealed. And it was challenging. And so rewarding. And I did not feel sorry for myself. I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Ma, homesteading on the plains, building something for the future.

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I did not feel sorry for myself, partly because I was determined not to, but also because of the community of women where I lived.

I raised my young family in a small town in Kansas. I saw women there, educated and socially aware, choosing to stay home with their families.

I say “choosing,” because it was a conscious sacrifice for most of us. I could have gone back to school while my baby was small, but she did not do well away from me. My youngest is not the same; she would have been ok. But my older kids, they needed me in a different way, and I felt it. I surrendered status, cash, respect, and those silk suits for them.

And so did many women I know, for their children.

We cut coupons. We did our own nails. We groomed our own dogs. We cut our kids’ hair, sometimes with greater success than others, but there’s always a hat. We went to yard sales, and we held our own sales every season to earn a little extra cash.

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My kids needed me more than they needed another activity or another plastic toy. And though it hurt my pride, they needed me more than I needed to be known as Dr. Professor. They needed me more than I needed a new car or clothes.

This is not a manifesto of the stay-at-home mom, by the way. It just happens to be my story. I know women who work outside the home and do it well, whose lives are balanced, and their children are great, happy, well-mannered, and well-adjusted.

It is, however, an acknowledgement that both are needed. No woman should be dismissed. All women in all callings are needed.

I’m glad I have women doctors and not just men to choose from for a breast exam. I like going to boutiques and having my hair cut and eating in restaurants where women run it all; I like their style. I’m glad there are women working in the stores where I buy my food and my dishes and furniture; I appreciate their opinions and their conversation.

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The marketplace was just not the life that God had for me.

And I saw how much women are needed in all arenas as I stayed home and watched the world go by.

My house was always the “kid house” because I wanted it to be, and also because I was often the only adult home in the neighborhood. We had after-school snacks for whoever showed up. I thanked God for coupons and for my friend who taught me to clip them like a boss, and I stocked up on crackers and cereal, 20 cents a box.

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One time we lived next door to a little boy, about six or seven, whose situation was not the best. The police were there every other night, and his big brother trained fighting dogs in their yard.

He came over almost every day. I saw that his coat was so dirty from wiping his nose on it that the sleeve had become like a small glacier, hard and flat and stiff. He let me wash it for him while he played with my daughter. When he took it off, I saw little round sores on his wrists. I asked if they were cigarette burns. He said yes. I was scared that his family would know I was the one who called, but I contacted SRS. They sent someone to his house. He got a case worker. Things got better after that, he told me later. The man who had burned him didn’t come around as much.

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Our porch was always full of kids. Sometimes they stole from me or did sexy dances in our yard or walked up and down the street in bikinis. I scolded them like they were my own kids. My house, my food, my kids, my rules. You gonna get it if you eat snacks at Momma’s house.

No matter how I got on to them, they never stopped coming back.

He who disciplines a child loves that child.

And a child somehow knows it.

We had mani-pedi parties for anyone who wanted their nails done for the first day of school. I had video game parties for any teenager home alone in the summer. I helped with homework. I took them for ice cream. I bought kids’ Bibles and told them about Jesus And, in certain circles, I am still famous for my milkshakes. When word hits the street that Mom’s blender is running, my kitchen is full of kids waiting to put in their order.

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These kids have broken my furniture, raided my freezer, and dropped glasses full of ice cream in my kitchen. They have mocked me on the way out the door after sitting in my house for hours, and I call out after them, “HELLO, I CAN HEAR YOU.” And those same kids come back the next day to get a break from their silent houses.

This winter, we had the chance to take a little boy sledding with us. His parents both work and don’t live together. I don’t know their story, and I know they are doing a good job with their son. But after a day of sledding, snowball fights, forts, and hot chocolate, he said, “This was the best day of my life.” I don’t know why, but it still makes me cry.

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I don’t ask all women to do what I’m doing. I just want all women to be appreciated. Every woman in the neighborhood doesn’t have to stay home. Just a couple is enough to keep an eye on things.

Women, we need you, everywhere you are. Moms, you make a difference, everywhere you are.

Thanks for doing what you do. Thank you for all the invisible work that gets done because you sacrifice yourself.

Thank you to the doctors and lawyers who study and work late into the night, because you care about humanity, and then get up early with your own kids. Thank you to the women who clean other women’s houses and check me out at the grocery store with smiles on your faces, even though I know your backs are tired and your feet hurt. And thank you to the brilliant women who decide to stay in houses and guard the home front.

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None of your work is wasted. There is need of your touch in every area.

A year or so ago, I heard this phrase in prayer, “The Year of the Women.”

At first I thought it was limited to 2016 in some way, but a few days ago, I was praying over it again. “Lord. I thought when you said, ‘The Year of the Women,’ it was that one year, but You keep bringing it up.”

And I heard this in reply, “When I say something, I do not undo it. I build on it.”

I was reminded of the many references to time in the Bible, the seeming relativity of days and years in certain scriptures.

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In 2016, I sensed a season of women being heightened, not some emergence that would be highlighted and then fall away. Looking back, it makes sense. Women would not surge forth and then do nothing with their growth and new sense of purpose and confidence. Women continue to be set free.

At the time, I wrote several posts about it, and the first couple were simple and empowering. Things like “God is raising you up! He is strengthening you, women! You have a voice–use it!”

I kept getting more and more insight.

And then I saw the most beautiful part. This movement of women looks different within the church than the movement of women in the world. I kept hearing this phrase, “Going up together.” I kept hearing, “You women will go up, but you will go up together. And because of this your families will be covered. No one falls through the cracks in my kingdom.”

I saw many women standing in circles, linking arms like fishnets. And I saw all the many responsibilities that women have and are so often dismissed.

But these responsibilities make up the fabric of our society.

Things like caring for children, for homes, for older relatives, looking out for neighbors, creating safe places in communities and neighborhoods, just by being present. Often volunteer organizations are run by women, as well as Bible study groups, after school clubs, playgroups for toddlers, and support groups for a million other things.

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As these women stood in these circles, with arms locked, they were catching each other’s responsibilities. I saw children and elderly people in wheelchairs, floating down, and the women caught them, together. I saw these women making meals for each other, I saw them cleaning house for each other. And in this way, they were able to go up, together, with no child staying home alone, no family going without meals, no woman having to miss an appointment or meeting because she had to sit with granddad.

The women covered each other.

They carried each other.

We don’t always bend easily to the solutions God shows us. They nick at the flesh. Community has a way of doing that. You have to deal with actual flawed messy people to have it.

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But God just loves it. He loves throwing us all together and seeing how we overcome and grow and irritate and infuriate and learn to appreciate each other.

That is my prayer this Mother’s Day. That you know how valuable you are. Your very own calling. And you can look at your sister and know how valuable she is without feeling diminished in any way. That you can celebrate each other’s gifts, because her gifts help you accomplish your dream, and your gifts help her accomplish her dream.

Because.

You sisters, you need each other.

And you go up, together.

***

Happy Mother’s Day.

Thank you for all you do.

Calling All Daddy’s Girls! Conference in Review.

When you have a vision and talk about it, it has the potential to come alive.

Lisa Palieri Perna of Touched by Prayer saw that happen last week.

Lisa had envisioned a gathering of a group of women, many of them encountering God in an intimate way for the first time.  She prayed over it.  She spoke to other women about it.  She asked for God’s help and for a team to support the vision.

And it happened, on March 17, 2017, just like that.

It was an honor to be there, to watch the women experiencing God’s love and receiving inner healing, finding freedom.

So many women, coming together, just to love.  Maturity, wisdom, generosity, kindness.  And with none of the games that often go along with gatherings of women.

No competition.  No cattiness.  No cliques.

Just love.

When you encounter love like that, Holy Spirit love carried to a certain depth, there is an indescribable peace that fills the room, the interactions, the atmosphere.  A peace that says, “You are accepted.  You are safe here.  You are free here.”

It makes sense.  Perfect love casts out fear.  It brings peace.

The relief that comes along with that kind of peace, it’s also indescribable, I think because we encounter it so rarely in most group settings.  It’s something I pray we will see more and more in our lives.   It’s a kind of permission to be ourselves. It’s something we are all longing for.

Many thanks to Lisa an to all the women who came to serve.  I’m so blessed and encouraged and inspired.

A vision realized is a beautiful thing.

***

The planning for the next Daddy’s Girl conference is already in the works.  Follow Lisa at Touched by Prayer on Facebook to get the deets as soon as they are available!

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.  Matt 21:22

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L-R.  Lisa Perna (Touched by Prayer), Margie Moorman (speaker), Mitzi Hanna (writer).  Photo used with permission.

The Necklace.

I fail a little bit every day.  Sometimes a lot.  Sometimes in front of the most important people.

A couple of summers ago, my kids wanted to try archery.  Our gym offered it, but it was a low priority.  So low, that no one there knew how to take money for the class.

A girl named Angel worked the front desk.  She couldn’t sign us up, but she helped.  She searched the computer. She looked up phone numbers.  She smiled.

Every time I called the manager, Deb, she would tell me to come on a certain night, and she would help me herself.  So I would go in.  But no Deb.

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This happened three or four times.  I started to think that my kids weren’t going to be able to take that class.  It stirred my inner Mama Bear.

Not good.

The next time I talked to Deb, she said she would leave instructions at the desk.  Now anyone could sign the kids up for archery.

Ok.  Great.  Good solution.

I used to wear a certain necklace all the time.  A supercool, relevant, Christian necklace,  It was stamped metal.  It said “Pray.”  It had an image of two folded hands.

Artsy.

I had it on that night, which was, by then, the fifth or sixth time I had taken my kids into the gym to sign up for archery.

Angel stood behind the counter. “Hi, Angel.  Your manager said we could sign up for archery tonight?!”

One problem.

Angel looked confused.  She shook her head.  There were no instructions, and still, no one there knew how to take money for archery.

After weeks of going back and forth and coming to the office with this same old thing, I hit that ugly limit.  Yes, I did.

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Oh, Mama Bear.

I said plenty.  How unprofessional they were.  How I would never use that gym for anything again.  How I could not believe such and such and blah blah blah.  I will say, I was not actually yelling, but I was angry.  I was harsh.

I was loud.

I stomped out to the van, kids trailing behind me like ducks.  We all got in and buckled our seat belts.  And in my mind, I saw Angel’s face.

Dangit.

I turned off the van.  “Everybody, out.”

I failed in front of them.

I had to apologize in front of them.

And to them.  “I’m so sorry, guys.  I just acted so bad.  I know it stressed you out.  And that lady is the only nice person in there.  I have to go tell her I’m sorry.”

Those fails come with the worst feelings.  Sadness.  Embarrassment.  Shame.

I walked back to Angel and said, “Um, excuse me.  I’m so sorry.  I am out of patience with this thing, but it’s really not your fault.  I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.  Thanks for being so great every time I come in.”

She smiled.  Like always.  And she said, “Oh, I understand!  It’s ok.  I would feel the same way.”

I left, and my kids said, “It’s ok, Mom!  You said you were sorry. Everyone gets mad sometimes!”

Dear God.  I love kids.

A few months later, I got online to research local ministries.   I saw a  group home for teens aging out of the foster care system.

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I clicked on the link, and on the first page, was a picture of Angel.

Her story was under the picture.  She had grown up in bad places.  She had never known a loving family.  But she said her life changed at that home.  She loved Jesus.  She was thankful for the women there.   They had become like a family to her.

I cried.

The archery thing eventually got resolved, and the kids loved taking the class.

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But, I took that artsy “pray” necklace, and I hid it from myself.  I may have even given it away.  I still don’t know where it is.  I said, “Lord, You know I can’t wear this and run around acting like a jerk.”

A few people have given me Christian jewelry since then, and I wear it sometimes.  But I take it more seriously now.

And, I’m not religious about it anymore, like it’s my duty to wear a cross.

I don’t know what people are dealing with when I meet them.

I do know that I love this saying.  “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

***

Dear God.  Help us to be kind.  Kinder than necessary.  

And when we fail.  Help us say we’re sorry.  

No fear of missing out.  No fear of being wrong.

Just love.  And kindness.  Even more than is necessary.