Written By Eudora Chuah, Singapore
It’s a bad day at work. One of the kids is acting up again. This time, he’s putting his legs up onto his chair. Regardless of how many times I tell him to put them down, he refuses. Each time I repeat myself, it sounds like I’m nagging.
“Put your feet down, NOW!” I finally yell in frustration. My anger rubs off on him. “You’re just yelling at me because you have a mental problem!” he retorts. He’s close to tears.
Aghast at his rudeness and hurt, but not wanting to draw further attention to the situation, I make a mental note to relay this incident to his parents. I’m not inclined to let him off because of his age—since when was it acceptable to address others disrespectfully, and to use such labels?
Hurt and anger soon morph into frustration and shame. Unaccustomed to these feelings, I decide that they should be quickly fixed. Instinctively, “Eudora’s Dummies’ Guide to Handling Bad Feelings” kicks into gear.
I fiddle on my phone aimlessly, trying to push my emotions away. But the frustration and hurt don’t fade away. That’s okay. I can text a friend. Maybe we can meet for dinner. Good food and company should ease these nasty feelings. My friend agrees to meet. See, I tell myself, this works already. “Eudora’s Dummies’ Guide to Handling Bad Feelings” is fool proof!
Next step in the Dummies’ Guide: I walk into a Marks & Spencer store, where the shelves of snacks immediately catch my eye. Buying these chips might help. A pack of biscuits might do the trick, too! Comfort food is always useful in such situations.
While paying for my purchases, my mind drifts back to a previous episode where I had attempted to comfort myself in a similar manner. Then, I had walked into Candy Empire and bought two chocolate bars which I had taken a long time to finish, because I felt too undeserving of them as soon as I paid for them.
On other occasions, I’ve attempted to “fix” my feelings by seeking assurance from my friends. Was what I said really okay? Did I sound stupid in front of the audience? On days when I feel even more insecure, I’ve even questioned my friendships. Are we still friends? Really? Why would anyone want to befriend someone like me?
Often, I feel like I’m trying to crack a code. If only I did this or that, perhaps in a certain sequence or after a required number of times, that may have helped to erase those bad feelings and make me feel better.
Yet, for the most part, I know that these fix-it methods don’t actually solve the real problem at the end of the day. Each time I buy snacks, I feel better—momentarily. But these material things never truly fill my emotional black hole and on the contrary, I end up feeling a double dose of shame. And even when my friends reassure me that our friendship is unchanging, I often find myself skeptical. I wonder if my friends are just sugar-coating what they really think of me.
But God has worked constantly in my life through my church community. Each time I find myself in a self-deprecating episode and tempted to resort to one of my fix-it remedies, they remind me that Jesus loves me just as I am. They identify when I’m being self-dependent, yet gently encourage me to fix my eyes on the gospel. Jesus has already taken our shame upon Himself by dying on the cross, and all of us can be “fixed” when we put our trust in Him. In doing so, we are accepted, made righteous and loved by Him (Hebrews 12:2), even in the midst of our messiness.
The learning process has been slow, often humbling, and sometimes painful. More often than not, I find myself failing and slipping back into my “fix-it” behaviours. Yet I am thankful that God is patient with me, and has also graciously given me a loving community that mirrors His patience and love.
So why are we trying so hard to “fix” ourselves? We don’t need to—Jesus’ death on the cross has already accomplished that for us.