Not Who I Want to Be

I took a communication style inventory in a meeting at work last week, and I walked away feeling the results were eerily accurate. It was one of those quizzes where you read a prompt and try to quickly follow your first instinct for selecting an answer, rather than over-thinking and attempting to choose the “right” response. Because I spent many of my early teen years taking quizzes in magazines, I can often notice a pattern in my answer choices and begin to predict the results before I calculate my final scores. However, this test was different.

My answers were literally all over the place. In one question, I indicated I wanted recognition. Then I said I wanted to be in the background organizing things. Next I admitted that I can be too blunt. After that I checked that I worry about what others think of me. When I began to score it, I confirmed my fear that my answers were not falling neatly into one category. It was like I had figured out the one way to fail a subjective test – to end up with no dominant characteristics at all.

When we had to raise our hands to show our highest scoring profile, I clung to the 7 that showed I was a “Green Beaver,” but I knew that the 5’s under “Beige Lion” and “Red Dolphin” really weren’t much lower. (Weird names. I have no idea…)

I truly identified with the Green Beaver characteristics. I love order, accountability, competence, responsibility… Calling me thorough and logical can sometimes feel like the best compliments.

Some of the adjectives describing the Beige Lion and Red Dolphin felt like they fit too… Control, decisiveness, too blunt, action, excitement…

Then I realized something.

I scored fairly evenly across three out of four categories. 7, 5, and 5.

I got a 1 under “Blue Panda.” Hmm… That’s interesting.

Love and kindness, understanding, support, affection, harmony… All the things that I’m not. Or at least the things that don’t tend to be my natural instinct.

Yeah, so here’s the thing.

I’m not sure how many people who truly know me would ever describe me as sweet or gentle or loving.

I know I’m female, and it’s supposed to be hardwired into my DNA. I know that as a wife, daughter, friend, sister, and hopefully future mother, I am supposed to be sensitive and nurturing. Particularly in my church culture, I have spent recent years feeling pressure to dress a little like a hippy and sit in coffee shops writing poetry and love notes to Jesus in my organic journal. (Note: Sarcasm and exaggeration are sometimes my love languages.)

I’ve wanted to be that girl. I’ve tried to be that girl.

I’m not that girl.

I’ve struggled for years with this piece of Scripture:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

Gentle and quiet? Oh boy.

You know what I realized recently that has stirred this struggle in me in a fresh way? This verse is placed in a context of teaching about marriage. (Yes, I know. Captain Obvious. However, I spent more than a decade processing it through the lens of a single young woman… Now that I’m married, I’m encountering these ideas in a new way.)

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” 1 Peter 3:1-6

Well, great. Now not only am I not easily gentle or quiet, but I am also not very good at being respectful or submissive.

See that part about winning our husbands over “without words”? Yeah. I tend to have a lot of words.

At one point a few months ago, I turned to many of my married friends and mentors to seek out their advice related to this. They all know me well, so they know that I love to be quick-witted and funny. One of my deepest desires is to be sincere and genuine everywhere I go. On a few occasions, this has caused my husband to feel a little embarrassed in public as I expressed my opinions or spoke and acted with dramatic expression (read: strong facial expressions and gestures. Perhaps dancing in the middle of Walmart… Hypothetically.). I so badly wanted my mentors to tell me that I wasn’t hurting anyone by just being myself with my strong and vibrant personality and that he just needed to get over it.

They didn’t.

MANY related with me and had experienced this before. It led to good conversations about being BOTH a strong woman and a respectful wife.

One close friend saw straight through my struggles and spoke to my heart. When we talked about becoming quieter, gentler, more loving, and more respectful, she said, “You will not lose yourself in this process. You will be made better.”

You will be made better in marriage.

WOW. Instant tears. (See??? I can be sensitive!)

I was feeling so confused about my identity. Why would God make me vocal and expressive and then tell me to be quiet? Why would my husband tell me when we were dating he loved that I was so genuine, and now he wanted me to change? Why can’t I just be myself?

I’m learning that I can… I just have to be the WISE version of myself.

It is a good thing to carefully choose my tone and timing when I approach my husband with concerns. It is good to honor him in front of others. It is good to continue to be myself and to use my strengths and gifts while allowing the Holy Spirit to simultaneously make me better.

I’ve already seen the Lord work through my developing gentleness. He has used it to soften me and to soften my husband at times. I’ve got such a long way to go. The other day, my temper was really flaring up and I started praying, “Lord I am so ready for the day when You will change my heart so I won’t feel and react this way anymore!” I felt Him softly correct me and tell me that He is teaching me to choose love and self-control in the midst of my strong emotions of frustration or selfishness.

I will never write on this blog or on my own to claim that I have everything figured out. I feel this is just a bit of humble and open (and hopefully genuine) reflection on my life, my faith, and our marriage. I know that my strong personality equips me in many ways to stand firm when I need to and to communicate honestly when confrontation is hard. One of my best friends even tells me she is jealous of the ways that I confront frustrations in marriage. She is on the opposite end – so full of gentleness and love that she often avoids confrontation and rarely addresses her concerns with her husband or with others. I know things like this are never just black or white – all good or all bad… I’m just thinking and discussing and hopefully growing.

And that communication-style inventory? I hope my husband will take it soon. I would be willing to bet money that he is a sensitive and loving Blue Panda.