I wonder when it is that most of us stop or dull our shining?
At what point in our journeys do we decide that it's safer and/or easier to blend into the background?
When we get the message that our shining invites pain into our lives?
When we get the message that our shining hurts others?
When we are fooled into thinking we don’t have anything of value to offer the world?
When we get so preoccupied with surviving that shining becomes an unexpected bonus prize?
I have to be honest. Something about the past few years of my life has dimmed my light.
Unexpected challenges and changes.
Grief and deep pain.
Experiencing a loss of control over how or where we live.
I have spent a good portion of the past year waking up from a foggy haze, realizing that I have shrunk back from myself, my gifts and my life, that I have been in hiding who I am and what I can TRULY bring to the table in service to others.
Realizing that it's been so long since I indulged that shining part of myself that I’ve almost forgotten who she is.
Tracing my steps back to the moment or the series of moments that I determined it would be safer, more economical and less painful to stand up or stand out.
I am not 100% there just yet.
A dear mentor and teacher recently posed this question to our class:
“How much energy would the sun have to exert in order to hold back, dull or hide its shining?”
“How much energy are YOU exerting to hold back, dull or hide yours?”
I have spent a good part of 2020 thinking about a story in scripture about three servants, each bestowed with treasure to care for and how each of the three managed what was left in their care.
The least faithful of the three is described as being paralyzed by fear and in a state of panic, hides what he has been given from himself and the world so that when his master returns it is perfectly preserved.
His treasure is safe.
But it has not seen the light. It has not faced the scrutiny of others. It has not risked anything. It has no sweat on its brow. It has never had to be brave or dig deep for its courage.
It is safe.
But no one has been inspired by its beauty. It hasn’t leveraged its value to create value for another. It hasn’t been enjoyed or admired.
It is safe.
But it has been covered in dirt and darkness.
It is safe.
But it’s keeper was found unfaithful.
I need to confess that I have been that keeper. I have been hurt, felt betrayed and afraid and I took everything I had and I buried it.
But I commit to the excavation process.
I commit to digging deep.
Dusting myself off.
And shining my light.
Scared out of my mind.
What will they think?
What will they say?
Is it enough?
Will it hurt like it did last time?
But I commit to shining.
I return to the deep wisdom of Marianne Williamson, and I invite you to return to it with me…
So you’re starting to feel that resentment and bitterness (or maybe even some burnout?) starts to bubble up in one of your relationships or at work…
That is almost always an invitation to explore what boundaries are missing and need to be erected.
So how do you do that? Where do you start?
Well, contrary to what you may think: you DON’T start with the other person or people in question.
It’s tempting isn’t it? To look at the other person in the relationship and shovel all the responsibility for our feelings of frustrating and discomfort onto them… but don’t ever go there. It will never truly resolve the true root of those feelings.
Boundaries are erected to protect YOU, what YOU love, what YOU value, YOUR priorities and YOUR life. When embarking on the boundary building process, the only sustainable place to start is with YOU.
Boundaries ALWAYS start in self-awareness.
Knowing yourself, what you value, what your priorities are, how you want to live your life, how you want to conduct yourself at work, or make a living, raise your children and what kind of relationships you want to have. Becoming aware of all of these components of who you are is the very first step in sustainable and healthy boundaries.
It sounds simple, but most people have no idea who they are or what they want. Most of the values and priorities we pursue have been instilled in us in childhood and belong to our parents, or as we get older our peers and our culture. Any boundary - no matter how successfully you seem to erect it - will continue to yield resentment, bitterness and burnout if they aren’t protecting a true and authentic version of YOU.
Imagine going through all the effort of creating and building boundaries around values, priorities and goals of someone else? No thanks.
Self-Acceptance is the foundation of good, strong & boundaries.
Once you do the work of uncovering who you are and what you want, your next step is to accept all of who you are, what you value, and the life you want - without apology, and without judgement.
This is an incredibly difficult task, but reinforcing boundaries is going to be incredibly difficult if you are questioning the validity and value of your own needs and desires.
We all need to learn and practice the self-care discipline of self-acceptance, and not to judge ourselves according to the standards of our culture, compare ourselves to our peers or measure ourselves by the standards of our parents or other significant people in our lives.
Boundaries are strengthened in love.
The energy or courage you need to sustainably erect and maintain healthy boundaries will not come from your anger or your fear - but from your love.
Once you are able to see yourself for who you are and who you want to become, once you are able to accept yourself, you will need to learn how to love yourself unconditionally.
Just like a mother cannot help but protect her children out of a fierce and unconditional love - once you learn to love yourself compassionately, you will develop the courage required to protect and defend yourself and the life you have been called to live in the same way.
Anger and resentment can be difficult emotions to manage, especially when they arise because we are being violated in our relationships, but they are also beautiful invitations to reclaim the authorship and power you may be handing over to others.
Boundaries are one of the ways in which we teach others to know, honor, accept and love us as we are: We cannot be good teachers until we learn to do the work ourselves.
If you would like to learn more about how to get to know, accept, and unconditionally love yourself - and if you would like some help staying out of bitterness and burnout, why don’t you head on over to our free facebook community:
I spent the first decade of my ministry career working in unhealthy and toxic organizational structures that nearly cost me my health, my sanity and my family. There were days when I could barely bring myself to go to work, attend a meeting and I would come home nearly everyday in tears. I was worried about the monster I felt like I was becoming in order to survive, and whether or not I would be able to make it to the end of my race, or if I would burn out, and become a statistic like so many others who had gone before me. For a good period of time, I found myself questioning my sanity almost daily, my health was deteriorating and I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.
One night while wrestling with God, I decided that I would dig deep. I decided that I would commit to learning and master the skills and the mindset necessary for me to not only survive, but to flourish. I was not going to go down without a fight. I was not doing to allow the dysfunction of my environment to determine my future or my faithfulness. I was going to shine my light in love, and I was determined that the cycle of dysfunction and toxicity would end with me.
Now, I empower women - particularly those in the helping professions like ministry, missions, non-profit work, nursing and teaching - with the tools they need to stay out of bitterness and burnout, and to flourish in their callings to work or vocations where burnout and toxic culture is particularly challenging and prevalent.
I work with women who want to faithfully honor their callings AND themselves and flourish in life, marriage and motherhood. I do this holistically - and by helping them hone the skills they need to lovingly deploy their courage, authenticity and wisdom in building both boundaries and bridges.
(Pssssst…. keep your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground because I have some products and services in development for the teams and leaders of organizations like churches, missions organizations and nonprofits who are done with burnout culture and are ready to cultivate and sustain a “whole-organization” flourishing culture that lovingly deploys courage, authenticity and wisdom in their leadership and their team.)