Let’s get a little personal. When I was in elementary school, I used to be a tomboy. To be clear, I wasn’t exactly sure what a tomboy was, I just felt comfortable wearing my dad’s shirts and socks. It also didn’t help that my parents thought it would be funny to see their little girl scootering around in a giant t-shirt and oversized socks. I once got a comment from my 6th grade teacher a few days before my promotion to junior high, asking, “Hey, Anh. You still gonna dress like that in Garvey [my would-be junior high school]?” I didn’t understand what he was getting at, but I could hear the negative connotation in his voice. I said, “Yeah! Why?” He shrugged and tried to keep his laughter in.
When I hit high school, I started wearing girly Hollister clothes because that’s what all the cool kids did and I wanted to be cool like them. I began dressing “girly” from then on and never got a comment like the one I got in 6th grade ever again. When I entered college and exposed myself to a host of different communities, it became more apparent to me than ever that I have what people would call a “strong personality.” I’m more of a Type A than a Type B. I like to lead. I know I’m a thinker and a doer, so I end up coming up with my own ideas and then I try my best to execute them in the most efficient manner. I only like group work when my group mates are as self-motivated as me; otherwise, I get irritated beyond belief. Some people might point at this and say, “YES!!! Yes, that’s exactly how I feel.” Still, others would think, What’s the big deal? Relax. There will always be both types of people in the world, and they will almost always be on the same team as each other—whether in church, in the workplace, or in school. Anywhere you’re exposed to people, you will run into someone you might clash with. I know that full well. Nevertheless, in my personal experience and observation, I think that a person’s sex also has a lot to do with whether or not his/her personality would be accepted or even praised by his/her community.
My personality is what you would define as a ‘masculine’ personality. You know those sociology personality quizzes you take to find out whether or not you fall more into the masculine or feminine side? Mine came out almost all masculine. Strong-willed, opinionated, initiator, correcting, and straightforward: that’s what society deems as a good portrayal of a man. Well, I’m not a man. I don’t identify as a man and I’m also not attracted to girls. So what does that make me? In college, I thought that it made me a saucy, insolent lady. I found out very quickly that my personality deemed me as offensive and out-of-line to many conservative communities and individuals. In college, I began hating the fact that I was born a girl because I wanted to be praised for my personality, just like the boys were praised for having an assertive personality. I actually wished I could keep my personality and change my sex, because I thought maybe then they would take my input seriously.
Since I couldn’t wish myself out of being a girl, I decided to make small changes to my personality instead. I would literally bullet things to change about myself in my journal daily, like:
· Stop talking so much. Only talk when you have something really profound to say.
· Wear [insert girly outfit in detail here]
· Be more graceful
· Don’t get too excited. Stay calm.
· Don’t talk too loud.
When I first became a Christian, these insecurities grew even deeper. Reading verses that praised the gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4) and personally experiencing some clear injustices made me feel like I was severely misunderstood simply because I am an outspoken, strong-willed girl. I didn’t come to these conclusions right away; rather, they came to me as I spent time reflecting on situations that bothered me from time to time. From my observations, my experiences, and my analysis, I came to the conclusion that my ideas and potentials were shriveling in the midst of an essentially sexist environment. As a result, I became bitter.
I started to secretly harbor this bitterness and became hyper-skeptical of the people around me. I constantly questioned their motives and made negative judgments about them secretly in my heart. For a long time, I was truly hurt from all the negative thoughts that circulated my mind as a result of the few bad experiences I had.
Still, in the midst of all the hurt I was experiencing, I had forgotten how to empathize with others. My bitterness and insecurities made me become indignant and prideful, and I caught myself gradually turning into the judgmental and unjust person that I had hated so much. My insecurities made me extra sensitive to how people treated me in a group setting, which pretty much meant that my antennas were actually looking for flaws and negativities in a person’s intentions. Instead of “taking the meat and throwing away the bones,” I gradually did the exact opposite: I craved for the “bones,” or flaws in the person’s character, and I threw away the “meat,” or the valid points that they bring up in an argument. Most of my interactions became filtered through a “Is this person being sexist?” lens, and this wrong outlook set me up for a bitter load of disappointments and pain.
Maybe there had been times when you felt the same way. After finding out that someone had gossiped about you, maybe you felt like you needed to be extra careful around everyone—not just the person who backstabbed you. Maybe after someone insulted your weight, you felt like it was as if the entire school was full of shallow people. Maybe after a racist incident occurred between you and a stranger on a bus, you think that the whole society is chocked full of no-good racists. Whatever your experiences may be, I’m sure that you’re not the only one who has ever felt bitter after going through these painful incidents. It’s human nature to guard ourselves once we get hurt. Our brains seem to react to emotional pain similar to how it reacts to physical pain—it does whatever it can to avoid experiencing the same trauma again.
I understand why you might be angry and bitter. In many cases, it’s also completely justifiable to feel that way. But please hear me out on these encouragements, as I’ve finally learned why I should let go of the hurt rather than hold onto it with everything I’ve got.
God loves the gentle and quiet spirit; yes, but that doesn’t translate to “God only loves meek and quiet people.” He loves us all, and he created us with these personalities for his own pleasure. He loves it when we’re silly and when we get excited- there’s nothing wrong with that. It is only when we are inconsiderate of others, or forget to forgive those who speak against us and then hate them in our hearts, that makes the spirit of God sorrowful. Even when people speak against us, even when they deliberately hurt us with their unjustified words and actions, it would still be wise to work towards forgiving them in our hearts. When I continued to harbor bitterness against people who have hurt me, I was doing a massive disservice against both God and myself. I was eventually able to let go of my bitterness, but only after days of crying, praying, and wrestling with the subject. But you know what? Once I finally committed myself to trusting the Lord with my relationships, I felt an immense relief that I’ve only felt twice in my entire life—once when I got saved, and again when I decided to have compassion over those who made me bitter. Choosing to let go of the hatred helped me to become a more genuine and loving person. It allowed me to serve others with the compassionate and empathetic mindset of Christ.
Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Just like the verse points out, there will be times when we have to bear with one another. It’s not a matter of whether or not people will slander you; it is a matter of when they will speak and sin against you. As a response, Apostle Paul tells us to have compassion and be tenderhearted and get rid of bitterness—why? Because we would be damaging our own wellbeing as well as bring more sorrow to the Father who had gone out of his way to forgive us. Trust me, I’m also preaching to myself as I write these words. It’s not easy to forgive—and I don’t mean the “out of sight, out of mind” type of forgiveness, but the head-on, face-the-person and truly forgive-them-in-your-heart type of forgiveness. Christ’s type of forgiveness. It takes time, it takes wisdom, and it takes guts, but God is more than willing to bring you comfort and guidance as you decide to forgive those who have hurt you.
It wasn’t an easy road for me to take, but in all honesty, after experiencing time and time again of how much he loves me and wants to restore me, how could I keep running away from him by choosing bitterness? I couldn’t. I want to encourage you to pursue the same route. Choose peace of mind and wisdom and freedom over bitterness; even if you have to face the monster head on to get to the other side. God is paving the road for you, anyway.