"Now, Michelle, you need to understand that it is okay to be yourself! Who cares what other people think of you?" a well meaning relative once told me. This comment preceded a very kindhearted tirade about how people just need to be themselves no matter how offensive their behavior might be.
"Do what you know you want to do, Michelle! Who cares what people think of you?!?" Another well meaning relative told me in a very loving explosion of annoyance at my long suffering Christlike behavior.
"She didn't tell you about the sins she has committed and she has pushed you out of her life because, you know, she feels you will judge her." At this point I returned with, "Seriously, I have a life. I don't have time or inclination to judge anyone! All I want to do is love her, of course!" This speech met with a shocked expression of disbelief.
It has repeatedly returned to my mind that people often judge me wrongly, assuming I care about public opinion or that I am attempting desperately to maintain a false, saintly image. Makes me want to smack my palm to my forehead. I love people in general and to disabuse the public mind, let me just explain who I really am.
My childhood was filled with a great many intense spiritual experiences too numerous and sacred to discuss, but which filled me with the unshakable knowledge that we are engaged in a great spiritual battle between good and evil. It is passionate, vibrant, very real and rages all around us every single day. We are part of it whether we want to be or not. The decisions we make aids either one side or the other. I have always been something of a deep thinker and felt that relationships between man and woman were so far beyond wonderful, amazing, exquisite, and sacred that it proves a high honor for both parties to be wanted physically of the other. Reckless lust has really never been in my vocabulary. It's not. Just born that way. I also knew from a very young age, perhaps from birth, that we are luminous, eternal beings and learned for myself that all people have divine potential and that no one is beyond saving. I have felt many times that I was too dark and vile to be within the reach of God's love. I was wrong, and because my perspective of myself has changed, I cannot look at anyone else, regardless of what they have done, as beyond help. I believe a woman, to be a real woman, is someone who sees the divine in herself and strives to reach out in a nurturing way and help others see it in themselves as well. Sometimes living with this perspective can be exhausting. It requires strength and passion every day. It requires the courage to maintain a calm and loving temper when horrible things happen to you. It requires completing the near impossible task of extending forgiveness to all men every single day regardless of the situation. It is an intense way to live, but that is who I am.
I appreciate the love of people who would invite me to fling all that aside and bask in momentary sin and selfishness. I appreciate their concern for me. But let's assess. If I were to engage in blatant, rebellious, immoral acts, would I be being myself? No. I would be stepping outside of myself. I have often found myself wronged and have sometimes been encouraged to speak badly of said offender. But honestly, when you are already hurting, does inviting more negativity in any way make you happier? I long for happiness! I long for peace. And the shortest road to both goals is to behave in a Christlike manner. This is just logic, people! I have been encouraged sometimes to break rules, hurt others, et cetera in order to pursue my own desires and comforts. Seriously, God is watching. It's a fact. And if I want something badly enough, I can't be making detours into reckless vice, which, without God's help, isn't going to work out anyway! All the blessings we want are contingent on God helping you get it and, call me self serving, I need certain blessings in my life!
I wasn't sure who I was in junior high and from that time into my twentieth year or so I didn't know if I wanted to be wholly good or strive to be wholly bad. But with a deep relationship with God I made my conscious decision at last. I held a conversation with a dear, dear friend some time ago in which I think said friend was trying to figure me out and understand the balance that explained why I do things as I do. My answer was, quite honestly, "more than anything else in this world, I just want to be a good girl."