At one particular sleepover in middle school, the girls around me decided to get all dressed up, put on make-up, and do their hair. I probably didn’t participate in this activity because 1) I had already combed my hair once that week, 2) it’s highly probable that there wasn’t a dress that I could fit into, and 3) Make-up just isn’t my thang. So, I was more of a spectator. I remember that I sat at the bottom of a staircase and they would make their way down the stairs and strike a pose. I was being snarky (to make up for my lack of participation) and I loudly commented that one of my best friends looked like…
Ya’ll, I don’t even remember what I ate for breakfast this morning but this comment that I made 15 years ago and the pain that it caused my friend are forever burned in my memory. To this day, I hang my head in shame that I would ever think that could be a funny joke instead of a weapon that would wound.
Alex and I have a friend who is like a sage. Seriously, this guy could be the next monk on a mountain somewhere. He doesn’t speak unless he’s spoken to, and even then, you know that whatever he’s saying has been carefully thought through. Whenever we’re around them and Jesse speaks, it’s like, “SHHHHHH, everyone!….(in an awed whisper) the wise one speaks.”
In stark contrast, I feel like the reaction to me about 30% of the time is, “Ew! Beth just verbally projectile vomited all over my face.”
Needless to say, I’m jealous of Jesse’s filter.
I am constantly battling my tongue and my filter and my thoughts. You see, I have what they call a Big Personality. In addition to said Big Personality, I also have Big Thoughts and Big Ideas and Big Feelings and Big Opinions. All of that Big can easily turn into a steamroller that forgets about the feelings of other people and/or uses other people as props to get other people to laugh and thus applaud and like the Big steamroller with the bowl haircut and the corrective shoes and want to be her best friend.
I use my humor as a weapon. I always have. I was never cute or athletic so I used my humor to deflect all of the other nerdy things about me. And it worked. In middle school, the cruelest of environments, I actually landed somewhere in the middle of the social strata, despite the fact that I wore the same thing to school everyday for six weeks and that I played the oboe. I postulate that I landed that coveted social spot precisely because I know how to make people laugh.
I understand that God has given me this gift of humor but I so often pervert it and use it to tear others down instead of building them up (and incidentally, building myself up while I tear others down). Seriously, sometimes I have Mean Girl syndrome. I hate it.
When I’m in a Mean Girl phase, I’ll say whatever the heck I want to and then, as I’m coming out of it, I’ll realize how horrible I’ve been and then I have to go be humble and apologize to everyone. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that I am not hot stuff. If you haven’t received an apology email from me, then we probably don’t talk enough. Poor Alex probably has a separate folder for Beth’s Apology Emails.
When I’m in the heat of the moment, it’s HARD for me to turn off the ugly. Often I don’t even know that I’m doing it, until I go home and think about it. The high of having an audience has clouded my ability to empathize or recognize that I probably shouldn’t tell this embarrassing story about you again. Then I realize that I’ve made a horrible mistake and that’s when I’ll email you, usually late at night because I can’t sleep until I’ve righted my wrong.
Also, I’d like to mention that all of this happens sans alcohol. Even when I have all my wits about me, I punch people with my mouth. God help us if I ever start to drink (PS- I won’t).
My friends and family and various church bodies have afforded me a significant amount of grace. In fact, they probably lather me in it every morning because I know it takes a ton of grace to be friends with someone who has a Big Personality. Sometimes my Big Opinions come off sounding like facts from a bossy know-it-all. Sometimes my Big Feelings are expressed without any thought as to how those feelings make you feel. All of that takes grace and I’m so deeply blessed to have people who are willing to forgive my Bigness.
I know that God gave me this personality for a reason. Having Big Feelings means that I get riled up about justice issues. On numerous occasions, God has shown me how to use humor to diffuse awkward or tense situations so that peace can enter in. My Big Opinions help me stand firm in my convictions. I’m going to need some Big Personality to defend my kids from some of the ugly that persists in the world.
So, I know that being Big isn’t all bad, but I’m just hoping that I can continue to tame the Big so that it’s more like a circus horse than a wild stallion. In the meantime (i.e. for the rest of my life), I just wanted all of you to know that I appreciate you and the grace that you extend to me when my Bigness gets too Big for its britches.