Fifty Shades of Stupid
Have you ever felt anxious when asked a question? You know, the kind of anxious that puts a knot in your stomach and a lump in your throat? The kind associated with “Can I borrow money?” “Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?” “Would you like to get your eyebrows waxed?” “Would you like to host a catalog party?” “Would you like to go for a ride?” Does your head scream “No,” but you smile, and say, “Yes, I’d love too?”
For many years, I was a People-Pleaser. Someone who was too afraid to say “No,” because I felt obligated to say “Yes.” Someone who’s desire to be accepted high-jacked my wants, needs, wallet, and well-being.
I know all too well, the swampy---alligator infested---hip-boot wearing---sinking feeling of being a People-Pleaser. I was barely eighteen, the night I could have been murdered. The night I said “Yes,” but desperately wanted to say, “No.” The chilling recollection goes like this…
I was working the drive-thru, when the head-set beeped to let me know a customer pulled up. “Welcome to Taco Bell. May I take your order?”
After repeating the order, the Caprice pulled around. The driver was in his late twenties, large, muscular, bald, wearing a tank top, and had a jagged scar over his left eye preventing it from opening.
“H—ey,” the driver says to me, “Your cute,” before craning his neck to look at the male passenger with him.
“Thanks! That will be $5.10.”
The passenger leans forward and peers around the driver. “She is cute,” he says.
I am? I think to myself. Relishing the attention, I straighten my visor, smooth my skirt, and smile as I hand him the sweet tea.
“You got a boyfriend?” The driver asked.
“No, we broke up,” I said, taking the cash.
“You probably don’t date my kind.”
“What kind?” I flirted.
He grinned. “Call me, Pyscho,” he said, “everybody does.”
My brow made a question mark. Pyscho? I asked myself, while studying the jagged scar running down his eye, and wishing I could back pedal.
“A girl like you shouldn’t be single. What you doing later?”
“I’m closing. I don’t get off till late.” I said, hoping it would end there.
“Give me your address,” he says, handing me a pen and the receipt.
The fun and flirting turned to tension. My stomach knotted up and a lump grew in my throat. No, I thought, I don’t want to give you my address, while jotting it down, and thinking to myself, I have no choice—I led him on—I flirted—I opened the door—I did this to me.
Relieved when the head-set beeped to tell me another customer was in the drive-thru. “Have a good evening,” I tell the two, putting Pyscho and the Caprice out of mind.
At 2:00 AM, I was awakened by Mother. “You have company,” she says, before leaving my bedroom, and going back to bed.
“Company? At this hour,” I asked, rolling off the top bunk, and hearing Mother’s bedroom door close.
The living room was dark, and the light from the street shown in the entryway. The front door was wide open, and two shadows were standing in it. “Want to go for a ride?” The driver asked.
I’m panicked, and shaky, and fearful, and weak minded. NO! I screamed in my head, Mom, why didn’t you send them away? Why didn’t you tell them I was sleeping? I can’t say, No! I can’t hurt their feelings. I did this to me—
“Sure,” I whispered nervously. “Let me get dressed.”
I returned wearing a neon green t-shirt and a vibrantly colored skirt, and followed them to the vehicle. Where’s the Caprice? I wondered, as the passenger opened the sliding-door to a full-sized van. Why didn't I say, No? I’m stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
I take a giant step up, and notice there’s no back seat—only a bed against the rear double-doors with windows that are painted white to match the exterior. I take a deep breath, and tell myself, I’m going to die, while being seated on the bed.
The passenger sits beside me, and the driver drives down Jefferson Boulevard toward Mercury.
“Where are we going?” I whisper.
After twenty-minutes, the van veered right into the parking lot of a rinky-dink cement motel near Hot Dog King.
“Get out,” the driver says.
The passenger takes me by the elbow and leads me into a first-level efficiency.
There’s a chair directly to the left of the door. “Sit down and don’t move. I’ll be right back,” the driver says.
His pants are loose and barely holding on. I watched as he strutted across the kitchenette and entered a room, before exiting with a large rectangular duffel bag. He set it on the floor to my left, and said, “I need you to keep this for me. Don’t ask questions. Don’t look in it. And don’t tell anyone. I will come and get it in a few days.”
I looked at the bulging black bag and wrung my hands. I didn’t dare touch anything, lest I leave a fingerprint as proof I was there. What’s inside? I wondered, speculating in fear, Maybe there’s a human head or a dismembered body?!
I took a big gulp, and wondered how long I had to live.
Not wanting to be an accomplice, I whispered, “No,” while staring at the colorful Aztec pattern on my skirt.
“No, I don’t want to. Can I go home now?”
“Get up,” the driver says, shoving the bag back into the room, and walking me out to the van.
“Get in,” the passenger said.
I stepped up, and the door slammed behind me.
It was dark and my body shook.
They sat up front, and the van pulled out of the lot, headed toward Denbigh, where I lived. Tears streamed down my face as I silently prayed, Dear God, put your angels around me and protect me. Don’t let them harm me. I know I’m an idiot, but keep me safe anyway.
As I pleaded with God, the passenger stood up, stumbled toward me, and kissed me on the mouth.
I pulled back and quietly said, “I don’t want to.”
“Okay,” he said.
Thank you, God, I whispered.
The van turned onto Beechmont Drive, and stopped in front of my apartment. The passenger opened the door, and I flew out and into the house, where everyone was asleep and no one knew I was missing…
So, there you have it! Fifty Shades of Stupid. I get it! YOU wouldn’t have gotten in the van.
Or, would you have?
What if every time you said “yes,” when you desperately wanted to say “No,” is you getting in the van? "The Proverbial Van" of everyone else’s expectations. A van that’s been cruising the streets since before Moses wore knee pants, scooping up the People-Pleaser's, like Adam who ate the fruit, Aaron who built a golden calf, Peter who denied Christ, and Pilate who released a crook. Need I say more?
Perils of a People-Pleaser
Take it from me---A People-Pleaser has a pattern. They says “Yes” to everything and everyone. They feel the need to conform and perform to earn the approval and love of others. They fear confrontation, disapproval, and rejection, and are easily dominated, controlled, and manipulated. They feel overloaded, drained, anxious, frustrated, bitter, resentful, and trapped.
Not to mention, People-Pleaser's aren't always honest.
It’s true. Agreeable people are apt to say what they think you want to hear. They minimize their own feelings, wants, and needs, lest they disappoint, hurt, or anger someone else, even when that someone else—is a stranger. Believe-you-me, I know.
In fact, I have a long resume of being one. It wasn’t until my thirties, that I recognized my Approval Meter was needle-ing in the wrong direction, and that I was seeking man’s approval, and not God’s approval to fill the void.
For many years, I cowered and conformed to the churches expectations, to earn their acceptance and to keep off the black-list. When the pastor said, “Don’t go to the movies,” “Don’t go bowling,” “Don’t wear pants,” “Don’t cut your hair,” “Don’t wear make-up,” “Don’t wear jewelry,” because it’s sin—I didn’t, and although, I adhered to the rigid set of rules, it hardly mattered, because I felt like I was always one strike away from being disapproved of.
There were many times, I shouted in my head: “No, I don’t want to baby sit,” “No, I don’t want to clean your house,” “No, I’m not going to give you more money,” “No, I’m not going to attend all four services this week,” “No, I’m not going to sell roses and fireworks,” or just simply “No,” without an explanation. Instead, I adapted to their will and to their abuse of, “Obey them that have the rule over you.”
Yet, while the church magnified my need to conform and perform, it didn’t originate there; but from a childhood, where a lack of emotional support and love, tangled with sexual abuse, rape, and rejection robbed me of my free-will before I even knew I had one.
Don't get me wrong: Helping people is good. Saying “Yes” is good. Church is good. Giving is good. Ministry is good. Wanting approval is good---when done in moderation. It's the out-of-balance YES that is the problem.
Holy Eye Patches
Years ago, I boasted to my pastor’s wife that 'I avoided confrontations because I was a nice person,' and she told me that 'fearing confrontation was a sign of immaturity.' Being Mrs. Christianity, I was taken aback by her response, and secretly hurt.
But she was right.
While growing up, my older sister, Pauline, had a severe lazy eye. The doctor made her wear an eye patch over her good eye, which forced her to use the weak eye all day, every day. Soon, the lazy eye became stronger, and with time, it corrected itself and no longer was a wandering eye.
Perhaps, that's what Jesus meant, when He said, "If thine eye be single, the whole body will be full of light." Maybe, just maybe, a Holy Eye Patch is the cure? The cure to correct immaturity and ill-patterns, and a way to have more internal Light, and peace, and self-love, and happiness, and balance for the common People-Pleaser.
Pauline saw out of one eye, because the physician made her wear a patch. Maybe, Jesus was telling us to, "Put a patch over our strength, in order to grow our weakness?!"
Jesus came to break unhealthy patterns, like death, hell, and the grave. Not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually and mentally.
So, put a patch on the "Yes," and practice saying "No." Rather than say what you think people want to hear all the time---speak the truth in love, and you will grow, and correct the Wandering-Yes-Pattern, which wreaks havoc in your life. In return, it will keep you from the Proverbial Van and the unwanted eyebrow waxing, the Girl Scout cookies and catalog-parties that cause you to conform and perform, and squander your free-will, leaving you feeling Fifty Shades of Stupid.
I am M.O.R.E. than a Conqueror...and you can be, too!