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Why do I get defensive

In a lot of ways, I’ve grown in my security. But I still tend to have extreme reactions to correction–either flying off the handle or starting to cry, or both. Can you give me any input?

Robin's Response

From my experience, defensiveness is a wall I put up to avoid pain. Change is hard and requires admitting that something in me needs to change. It can also feel like an attack. Or like a worst fear has come true, “See I’m not good enough.” Or, "Maybe I really am just an imposter."

I'm amazed at Hebrews 5 says that even Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered...he cried out to God with loud cries and tears for help. He wasn't above learning, being taught, accepting guidance from his Father. If Jesus, the one who sets the example in every area of life, can humble himself, then why am I so afraid of bearing weakness and accepting help?

To answer that question, I’ve had to go back to my past. For example, when I was 16, after I stopped twirling the baton competitively, I gained some weight. My dad used to comment on it, i.e., “The fat is choking your brain.” In fact, it seemed like showing weakness in my family was often a basis for attack. So, I quickly learned to manage my appearance and what others thought of me.

After my conversion into Christianity, I still had a reservoir of shame. The more I tried to please others, the more I started over-reacting to correction, even from well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ. I was filtering everything being said to me through a place of shame that wasn’t healed yet. At times, I felt like I was losing my mind.

Through the writing of Secure in Heart, God has done some major rooting out and healing of those places of shame. The good news is that I’ve noticed lately that I yearn for honest input from others. And I've also found that it's ok with me, if others don't really understand where I'm coming from.

How did this change take place? I think first of all, I started praying to God to “search me and examine me” and to reveal any wrong way in me. And he did exactly that. As he lovingly revealed areas of insecurity and shame, I learned to mourn my losses and then surrender those to him. Then I would thank him that he is my wisdom, he is my rock, he is my guide, he is my advocate...

Through this process being repeated over and over again, I came to understand that I didn’t have to measure up to some kind of ever-increasing standard. I learned to see all of my imperfections as a way for me to turn to God in his perfection. If he is truly my wisdom, then I don't have to be perfectly wise (like I can put pressure on myself to be!)

I think you’ll find that going through this process can be a catalyst for a whole new level of vulnerability and safety in your relationship with God, and ultimately, in your relationship with others.


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