Talking on the phone is one of my least favorite activities of all times. As in, I want to hide when my phone starts ringing [not exaggerating, but please don’t feel the need to test this theory]. Okay, that’s not entirely true. As a teen, I’d stretch that wall-mounted phone cord beyond its limits and battle my sisters for phone time. So, “of all times” is clearly code for after my teen years. I’m not anti-people, though. I’d just prefer to sit across the table from you and enjoy a conversation.
The jobs I’ve held have always required quite a bit of talking. As an elementary teacher, talking is most certainly a tool of the trade. When I worked for a non-profit ministry, I routinely met with individuals for long periods of time. Talking isn’t really the issue [as many of you know]. Talking on the phone, however.
When my oldest children were in elementary school, one of them drew a picture of me for Mother’s Day. On the picture, were descriptions of me. For instance, there was a line drawn from my arms to words saying, “the arms that hug me.” I was studying the paper [which was hanging in the hallway] and appreciating all the lovely things until I read what was written near my mouth.
This is the mouth my mom uses to TALK ON THE PHONE. That felt like a derogatory statement for the world to see. I immediately had a sick feeling in my gut. My reaction was to feel the need to defend myself. I wanted to make sure everyone understood I did not enjoy talking on the phone. I did not choose the phone over my people, but what if they felt that way?
When I tell you I wrestled with that description for a great deal of time, believe me. My insecurity increased quickly, and failure haunted me every time my phone rang. If my kids were around and I answered the phone, it would confirm their belief that I enjoyed talking on the phone. I was in a terrible mom conundrum.
EXCEPT, I wasn’t. The thing my kiddo wrote didn’t say I preferred to talk on the phone. It said I used my mouth to talk on the phone. That was a fair and true statement. In fact, it was an observation statement—NOT a moral judgment. There lies the exact spot I went wrong when I decided to come undone standing in the elementary school hallway.
My own faulty belief was confirmed. The kids and I had been through a very difficult season in their early years. My parenting ability had been questioned and threatened in ways I hope others never have to endure. I had adopted a broken identity as a failure long before this season, but it was cemented by the events of our turbulent family years.
I felt like I wasn’t cut out to be a mother. I owned the horrid statements made about me. I wore those as truth for many years, and I invested a lot of time trying to prove otherwise. That belief was rooted by the time I stood in the hallway looking at the picture of me. My child’s words were not an attack on my parenting, but since I was looking through a lens of inadequacy-that’s all I saw.
It’s easy to assume the worst. Most of the time, for many of us, it fits with the narrative we’ve been telling ourselves. We search and find little bits of evidence to confirm our story, even if they don’t really fit. We make them fit within the framework of our worst fears and deep insecurities.
The fact is, I don’t like talking on the phone. I will choose the person in front of me over a phone call any day. The thing is, if I’m walking in the broken identity insecurity creates, I’ll think observation statements are moral judgements and I’ll come undone. I’ll lose sleep thinking of ways to vindicate my honor, or overwork to give you a different impression. Sounds silly, I know.
If you find yourself, like me, interpreting observation statements as moral judgments, pull back from the situation. Drill down to find the root motivating your reaction. Then, examine the broken identity driving your decisions. Let go of it. If people said ugly things in your past, they don’t have to define your future. You can be someone different, choose something different, and live a different story.
#momentoftruthmonday #textmedontcall #brokenidentity #observationstatements #moraljudgments #notthesame