the lies that bind

i started pondering this topic yesterday and it depressed me even then, so bear with me here, please.

i’ve been thinking about lies a lot since the last time i felt depressed … which was last thursday. so, after nine days of considering my own thoughts and hearing from other people … then reconsidering my thoughts … i’ve again come face to face with the obvious: lies really screw people up.

there are different kinds of lies, though. there are deliberate lies we tell and deliberate lies other people tell us. there are half-truths, which, as such, are also half-lies — or at least half-misdirections. then there are unintentional lies, things we tell ourselves or that other people tell us, that might be well-meaning or well-intentioned, but simply aren’t true.

i almost think these last two are more insidious and have more potential to wound because they are mixed with truth or good intentions. i’ve believed and told myself all kinds of lies over the course of my life, but these are a few i still struggle with believing/refuting, even though i do know now they are lies. they were not presented to me bluntly, either, but bluntness helps show them for what they are. they are pathetic.

people won’t like you/men won’t want to marry you because you’re fat. 

i’ve struggled with my weight since i was about seven years old, i think. a lot of people in my family struggle with it. heck, a lot of people everywhere do. i developed bad eating habits and failed to develop self-control. as a kid, i didn’t really think about what i was eating. i still am not sure how i went from a slim six-year-old to a stocky seven-year-old, but i did. before long, i was the chubby one in a group of mostly slender friends. hearing “you’re overweight,” “you’re getting heavy” or “you need to lose weight” from well-meaning people didn’t help. i knew it was true and i loathed the fact that i was fat, but it didn’t motivate me to try to lose weight.

people do various things for comfort or to relieve stress, or to relieve something. some teenagers (and some younger people and some older) self-mutilate as a source of relief. i ate. it wasn’t like i went on binges or anything; i simply ate too much and didn’t realize what i was eating.

i think i tried the weigh down workshop weight loss program, but i don’t remember for sure. i did the atkins diet for a while, stopped. i did the south beach one for a while, then stopped. (by the way — i hate dieting.) i didn’t know for sure what size of clothes i wore, so i usually bought large or extra-large by default.

hearing in high school and college that guys didn’t like fat girls was also no motivation for me to lose weight. it just made me feel sad. and when i felt sad … well, let’s just say ice cream or chocolate is not always the best solution when you’re in that situation. during college life and stress and commuting and working odd hours at the student newspaper or tv station i seem to have primarily had a diet of general tso’s chicken, muffins, coke and cafe mochas (or frappuccinos, in the blazing hot kansas summer).

so, there i was: 21 years old, newly graduated from college and newly a working woman. i weighed at least 180 pounds, wore size 16 jeans and was afraid to step on the scale. i’d always thought (i don’t know how, but i did) that i had fairly healthy eating habits and ate lots of fruits and vegetables. when my job became reading about fruits and vegetables all day, i realized i didn’t.

in december of that year i realized i’d never seen myself skinny — not since i was six, anyway. i wondered what i’d look like. i made a new year’s resolution: i would lose 40 pounds the next year, just to see what i looked like.

it took me two years or so, but i lost about 55 pounds.

i still struggle with food. i struggle with knowing what amounts of things are healthy or unhealthy. if i eat an entire hamburger/piece of chicken/sausage/pork chop/whatever i often feel kind of perturbed or guilty, like i do after i have eaten too much ice cream. now, when i get depressed, i don’t eat. it’s not healthy, i know, but there’s the little voice in the back of my mind that says “if you start eating something you won’t stop, and you’ll get fat again, and people won’t like you and you’ll loathe yourself.” i know that isn’t entirely true, but the thought’s there nonetheless, and i have to deal with it. then there are the people who say “you have no excess body fat!” and i think “my thighs are wobbly, my stomach is squishy and my arms are flabby. what excess body fat are you not seeing?”

i’m not fishing for compliments, by the way, or sympathy. i know these are lies. i know there are lies you believe — we all have them. and they hurt us all. let’s learn to look them in the eyes and call them what they are, okay?

appearances, especially where men are concerned, are a big deal to women. the hair and makeup industries are huge. there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look nice or taking the time to do so. but we women get hung up over this stuff. so here’s another lie in that line.

men will not notice you because you have short hair.

in my circles there’s been a lot of back and forth about women having short hair and whether they should. all the people having the back-and-forthness also had strong opinions on the topic. forgiveness and grace have been exchanged all around now, as far as i know. my personal experience with this topic has nothing to do with the situation i just described, nor does, directly, the passage in the new testament where paul talks about men’s hair and women’s hair (short and not short, respectively).

i have very thick hair, and i have a lot of it. when i was sixteen my hair reached halfway down my back. it was pretty, i will admit. it also took upward of half an hour to blow dry. i cut it off right before my senior year of high school, and it stayed in the shoulder to chin length from then until just before my 23rd birthday.

then i got it cut shorter than it had ever been because i was having brain surgery, and i didn’t want the mess or indignity of the doctor removing my hair for me, if he needed to. as it turns out, he didn’t, but short hair gave me an odd sort of confidence. i felt like the person i had always been inside had finally shown up on the outside of my body. then there were the questions as to if/when i was going to grow it out again.

i tried to last summer because i got tired of the “men notice women with long hair” reminder. whether this was the intention or not, what i heard underneath was “if you grow your hair out, someone will fall in love with you.” that was, after all, the scenario i’d been given. so i thought, “fine, i’ll grow it out. and it will not make one whit of difference — people still won’t notice me.”

i don’t recommend angry passive aggressive behavior as a reason to grow your hair out, by the way. i was angry for six months about something as stupid as the dead protein on top of my head … so i cut it off again.

i honestly can’t imagine what i would look like with long, long hair again. all my memories of it are also tied to being overweight, shy and frumpish. with short hair i feel like i don’t have anything to hide behind (except maybe my glasses). hello, it’s me — i’m sometimes quiet and i sometimes back myself into corners, but you can still see me once i’m there. also, i have a skin condition that’s far easier to manage with short hair than with long.

i understand that men find long hair attractive — it’s gorgeous, after all. it totally makes sense. i’m fine with that. but saying the length of my hair will be the deal-breaker for a man? i prefer shorter hair on guys, personally, but i wouldn’t decide not to marry someone because he had a ponytail.

maybe some day i’ll grow my hair out again, and hey, maybe i’ll get married right after that. but, for the time being, i’m not going to believe my worth to other people is dependent on the length of my hair. and i’m not trying to look like a little boy, either.

wow, i’m writing a novel. here’s one more, though.

marriage is something you deserve/when you reach perfection, you’ll get married.

i’m pretty sure no one ever actually told me this. one thing i did hear, though, was “people tend to marry their spiritual equals.” i don’t remember now the entire context in which that was presented, but it was enough to make me think “oh no,  if i’m not a perfect mature Christian then i’ll marry someone who also isn’t very mature and our lives will go to pot because of it and i will have wasted my life.”

i thought that unconsciously, of course. i’m not saying anything against the importance of maturing in Christ. our constant, highest goal should be to know and experience more and more of Him. it is impossible to reach 100% goodness on this side of eternity, however, and guilt or paranoia are extremely unhelpful for getting anywhere.

but, subtly, i thought i could reach an age or a point in my life at which i “did everything right.” i would get up at 6 every morning, have an hour-long quiet time with God, win hundreds of people to Christ, and also be free of acne (and i’d be thin).

that is so silly-sounding once i’ve typed it out. but it’s what i thought. i looked around at the girls i knew — girls my age or, oh horrors, younger —who were getting married and thought “why them, God? what makes them so special?” they were all thin, and some of them were blonde, they didn’t have zits, and they didn’t wear glasses, as far as i had ever seen. i subconsciously concluded they somehow must have reached perfection.

it’s easy to look on marriage as something we somehow earn or deserve.


it’s not. the sun shines on the evil and the good; the evil also get married, as strange as that may seem. sometimes it’s confusing and excruciatingly painful to wait, and try to be patient, and wait some more, and oh gosh will i ever have someone’s hand to hold? will i ever get to be the one with a special friend to introduce to the family over thanksgiving dinner? you know how that goes, whether you’re a woman or a man. it’s not about deserving and it’s not necessarily about being “ready,” either, whatever that means.

God, in His infinite, all-seeing wisdom, operates on His own timelines and storylines. in the meantime, love Him — He is the only one who is always there, even (especially) when you can’t see, hear, or feel Him. i’ll admit i’m not always consoled by that fact, but it’s true, and it’s always true, regardless of what i feel.