Well here we go: How do our attitudes and how we were brought up as children affect us as we grow (Becoming What I Came To Be)? Some things we come to understand naturally, but some things we do not. We have to learn them; sometimes the hard way.
I don’t remember much about when I was small, but I know I was born in Newton, Iowa. And one memory I do have from that time is that my grandma lived on our property in her own little cottage. I’d traipse down there often and she would usually grab a milk carton out of the freezer and pour me freezing cold milk that tasted so awesome – along with cookies, of course!
Grandma always seemed to greet me with a smile whenever I went down to see her. She was so very kind, showing the love towards me that is talked about in Colossians 3:12.
But unfortunately her kindness didn’t rub off on me…
As a matter of fact, it seemed as I grew I was turning out just the opposite. Even when we moved to Seattle when I was 5 years-old and finally made some friends, I’d usually think of “me” first. Yes, I loved my friends. But I often felt the urge to be better than they were.
In hindsight through the years, I think a lot of it came from my insecurity. I always wanted to be popular, but wasn’t. I had to wear clothes I hated, and my mom would cut my bangs really short. I was dorkness intensified. And, since I was shy, it was hard for me to make new friends in school. I always felt like an outcast.
During parent-invited class parties in grade school, I used to hate for my mom to attend (dad was usually working). Mother hadn’t given birth to me until her mid-30s, and to me she just looked so old compared to the other moms. I’d get embarrassed.
As I got into middle school things got worse. We had by then moved to a city where everyone seemed to be rich except us. A lot of my classmates were from a totally different culture than I was. I felt like I was sinking more into “Loserville” every day. So I started hanging out with a group of kids who taught me all about drinking alcohol, drugs, sex and skipping school. Since I had no money and hated babysitting, I soon also learned the fine art of shoplifting – it was so easy!
When I got to high school things were even more horrible…
I constantly fought the urge to be “popular.” I wanted to fit in desperately with the classmates who got invited to all the cool parties and hang out with the jocks.
Of course I certainly wasn’t the only self-proclaimed misfit, so I began befriending some of the other misfits – but only because they had something I wanted. It could’ve been to become acquainted with another friends of theirs, a cute brother they had, or because they were richer than our family. I wanted them to invite me to go with them on vacations where I could escape the realities of home life where things weren’t going well – especially since dad had suffered a mental breakdown and had disappeared from our lives in my early teens.
But once I got what I wanted from these new friends, I’d start being mean to them – dumping their friendship and gossiping behind their backs. Even when I dropped out of school and got my first real job at 17 years-old, I still would always look to how I could incorporate myself into someone’s good graces, because they had something I wanted.
It was a vicious cycle, but I got pretty good at it. Unfortunately I don’t remember ever feeling bad about it, either. Life was all about me, myself and I. Exhibiting my grandma’s loving acts of kindness never even entered my mind.
As a matter of fact, it took many, many years before I learned how to be kind. God had to teach me, and it was slow work.
Next week I’ll be talking about forgiveness. That wasn’t in my vocabulary either!