Cancel Your Good Girl Contract

Cancel Your Good Girl Contract

Cancel Good Girl Contract

You’ve always been a good girl. Mostly. In fact, you often go out of your way to be nice, helpful, and accommodating to others. Isn’t that what Christian women are supposed to do? You’ve gotten your ‘atta girl’s, but lately you’re resentful. You’re starting to feel like a giver in a world full of takers.

The Problem With Being a Good Girl

I’ve been a good girl my whole life–not that I’ve never done anything wrong. If you’ve read So You’re Not Wonder Woman, you know that’s not the case! But my identity has been tied up with being nice, even when others are nasty. Maybe even, especially when others are nasty.

After all, the first rule many of us learned whether we attended church or not is:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The Golden Rule is a wonderful life philosophy as long as you don’t add to it. Only recently did I realize that I have extended the rule to be:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and they will do likewise.

When people in my life have failed to do likewise, I have treated them like they’re hard of hearing. I turned up the volume of my niceness. I have gone to great lengths to be generous, encouraging, and thoughtful. When I still didn’t get reciprocation, I would either amp up my kindness to ludicrous levels or I would try to get their attention with my irritation.

You guessed it. They still didn’t live by the Golden Rule.

The result at various times has been anger, depression, and a sense of hopelessness about relationships.

You’d Think a Psychologist Could Figure This Out

In my professional relationship with clients, I had no problems. I was being paid to be the giver. I didn’t expect the people I saw in my clinical practice to encourage me or do nice things for me. But in my personal relationships, I was very disappointed.  And I mean very disappointed.

A dear friend knew I was confused and sent me an excerpt of The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self by Buddhist, Alex Lickerman:

As with many breakups, the end of my relationship with my first girlfriend came in fits and starts rather than as an abrupt but mercifully irreversible amputation.  Yet even after we both recognized the relationship was finally over, she continued to ask me for favors – to pick her up from the airport, to take notes for her in class, to help her change the oil in her car – and I, inexplicably, continued to grant them.

Then while chanting one morning I found myself ruminating about how she continued to expect me to perform these favors, my indignation only rising after I’d finished chanting and began showering.  And as I rinsed the shampoo from my hair and the last of the soapy water went swirling down the drain, I made a sudden and angry determination to refuse her the next time she asked for one.

At that moment, the phone rang.  After I’d finished drying off, one of my roommates told me that it had been her calling and that she’d asked if I would call her back before I left for school.  As I walked toward the phone I told myself that when she asked me for the favor for which I knew she’d called, I’d say no.  I called her up, and sure enough, she asked me if I would record a television show for her on my VCR.  Yet even as I went to speak the word, “No,” I heard my mouth say, “Yes.”

I hung up – and laughed out loud.  I was as powerless to refuse her as I was to lift my car with my bare hands.  And yet learning this failed to discourage me.  On the contrary, it excited me – because if I could recognize this fact, I thought, I could find a way to change it.

Immediately, I decided I would begin chanting with the determination to free myself from my inability to say no.  And months later, while chanting, I had an insight:  the reason I remained unable to refuse her favors was that, in my mind, I’d signed a Good Guy Contract with her (a term, ironically, I learned later from her).  Until that moment of insight, I had no idea what a Good Guy Contract was, much less that it was the standard contract I consistently established with almost everyone I knew.  But in that startling moment of clarity I understood not only what it was but why I kept signing it.  My self-esteem, which I’d previously believed had been built on things solely internal, was in fact entirely dependent on something external:  the goodwill of others.  The Good Guy Contract was simple:  I would agree to be nice to you, to advise you, to sacrifice for you, to care about you, and in return you would agree to believe that I was wise, compassionate, excellent in every way, and finally and most importantly, you would like me.

With my girlfriend, however, I hadn’t only expected to be liked; I’d expected to be loved.  And once I’d had a taste of that love, I became addicted to it, which was why, when she took it away from me, I became profoundly depressed.  Not because, as I’d originally thought, I’d been left by someone I thought was the love of my life, but because I genuinely believed that without that love I couldn’t be happy.  Why, then, did I keep doing favors for her after we’d ended our relationship?  Because I couldn’t shake the Good Guy habit.  Some part of me believed if I continued to fulfill my contractual obligations to her, she’d start fulfilling hers again to me.

I didn’t know at the time, but at the moment I awoke to my propensity to sign Good Guy Contracts, I stopped doing it.  I recognized this only in retrospect three months later, however, when my best friend came to me asking why I seemed to have stopped paying attention to many of our mutual friends.  My first reaction was to become defensive and deny it.  But then I stopped myself, realizing that he was absolutely right.  I wondered why I had in fact become so dismissive of many of my friends until I realized that I’d somehow stopped needing their approval to sustain my self-esteem.  Freed from the need for them to like me, I was able to recognize that these were people with whom I had little in common, so I’d subsequently – and unconsciously – lost interest in them.  My insight, in other words, had done more than show me what I’d been:  it had changed me into someone I wanted to be, someone who could love and value himself without needing to be loved by anyone else.

Why I Needed to Cancel My Contract and You Do, Too

Certainly, expecting people people to abide by the terms of a contract is understandable. But what I realized is that I was the only one who had signed the Good Girl Contract. The people I was bending over backwards to please had no idea what my expectations were, or if they did, they didn’t care. Some of them quickly figured out that if they said no thanks to my goodness behind Door #1, there was more niceness to come.

My first reaction to Alex’s account was that I needed to do what it took to stop being taken advantage of. The best way to do that, I was sure, was to only spend time with people who would abide by the terms of the contract. But I could distinctly recall making that decision before. It didn’t work. Invariably, someone who fulfilled their contractual obligations to my goodness for a while, would fail.

And while I was encouraged by Alex’s words, I felt uncomfortable, too. First, I’ve long disliked the term self-esteem. I can’t esteem myself highly because I know every rotten thing I’ve ever thought, said, or done. And second, I really do need to be loved by someone else. It’s true that I don’t need everyone to love me, but I certainly need to be loved. And there’s a direct correlation between being loved and feeling good about self.

I was able to put the final two pieces of the Good Girl Contract puzzle into place when this Scripture leaped off the page at a retreat I recently attended:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

Like Jesus, you and I are called–not to sign a contract with others where they promise to be nice in return–but to simply serve them. No expectations. Just giving because you want to give.

If you’re like me, that makes sense to you, but you’re still wondering:

“What about me?” I can’t just give, give, give all the time.

That’s when something else my friend shared with me rang true:

You have to come from a place of abundance to be able to give freely.

In order to cancel our Good Girl Contracts, we need another way to get love–and a lot of it. We need to be bathed in encouragement, affirmation, kindness, forgiveness, peace, and hope. There’s only one source for that kind of abundance: Jesus. Only in spending a lavish amount of time with the Savior will we overflow with goodness we can share with others.

The extraordinary thing is that He has signed a Good God Contract with us. No matter how we fail to follow the Golden Rule, He will still be a Good God.

Life Without a Contract

Adjusting to life after canceling my contract has been challenging for me. While I seem to be willing to cancel my contract with certain people, I still keep hoping that they’ll notice and decide to play nice. That means the contract is still in effect. The goal is to give with a cheerful heart and not a needy one or to release myself from giving completely because it isn’t in either of our best interests.

I’m learning to recognize the blessing in people not abiding by the terms of my contract. 

My husband sells library books to schools. Some school districts have contracts with one vendor. The librarians in those districts cannot meet with him and take advantage of what he has to offer, which in many cases is much better than what they have. Only if the district becomes unhappy with their contractual vendor will they begin to explore their options. Being released from our contract, whether that’s our doing or because someone else won’t play by the rules, means we are free to experience new relationships. My husband’s sales won’t grow if he doesn’t look for new customers and God’s kingdom won’t grow if we’re satisfied with the relationships we have under contract.

I’m committed to seeing failed contracts as an opportunity to share the love of Christ with someone new. And my prayer is that with the Lord’s help, I won’t be a Good Girl, but the beloved servant of a Great God.

Have you signed a Good Girl Contract? Are you willing to cancel it?

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What’s Your Motto?

What’s Your Motto?

Four-leaf clover.
I remember my high school class motto because we borrowed my mother’s high school motto:

Give the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.

While being able to summarize what your high school class is all about is of questionable importance, being able to summarize what YOU are all about is very important.

Unlike a bucket list, a list of your lifetime goals, or a description of your blog or business, a motto communicates in one sentence or more what you want people to know.

I have read about the importance of a simple description for blogs so people know what to expect. I have struggled to really refine my own tagline, but the recent survey I did of what people want to see in my blog suggested people either didn’t care or wanted me to keep my broad focus.

I’ve written about the importance of having a singular focus as we work throughout the day.

But only recently did I read about summarizing your whole existence in one motto. Surprisingly, it’s easy for me to give you my life motto–the sentence I’d be okay with having on my headstone, the words I want my children to know, the truth I want to share with the world.

I discovered my motto as I did an interview with Felice Gerwitz on my book, So You’re Not Wonder Woman. Here it is:

Psychology can’t save you; God can.

I have a Ph.D. in psychology and experienced nearly every problem that plagues modern women: overeating, disorganization, messed up relationships, depression and out-of-control finances. My smarts and the knowledge gained from the field of psychology did nothing to help me. Nothing. In fact, I think it drove me deeper into depression. And no wonder.

Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” (Isaiah 29:14)

Although people are impressed by my education and I understand that, I’m only impressed with the God who forgave me for the sake of His Son, Jesus, and then transformed me.

My prayer is that even if you don’t believe my motto, you’ll know that I do. I have nothing to offer you, but God has wisdom, help, and hope for you. If He uses me to share out of the abundance of His riches with you, I am blessed.

In a sentence, what is your motto?

 

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Contentment 101: Comparisons

Contentment 101: Comparisons

 

Contentment: Comparisons

I thought I was done with my series on contentment that begins here, but the Lord had more to say to me about it.

I just returned from a homeschool speech and debate tournament with my oldest son. How strange it is to watch your child agonize over others’ evaluations of him as you once did. I remember the feelings of frustration I had in being praised and criticized for the very same aspect of my speeches. I remember feeling like I wasn’t as good as my teammates who had taken home trophies when I did not. I remember feeling so low at times that I considered quitting.
Caleb outside
Don’t get me wrong. I think speech competition (and even the constructive criticism I received) prepared me for what I do today as a speaker. I was driven to improve and I learned to use discernment about the feedback I received. (Just because a judge says it, doesn’t make it so.)  But competition can also confuse us; I know it does me.

When I watch my son debate, I just think, “Wow!” I am unable to be objective about how his speaking skills compare to others’, because I love him so much. To me, he isn’t better, just beloved.

One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. – John 13:23

I have heard a number of teachings on John’s reference to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Most of them emphasized that Jesus spent more time with John and as a result, was closer to him. I can’t deny that. But I don’t think that John was emphasizing that he was better, just beloved. The most amazing thing about Jesus for John was that He loved him.

When I am tempted to be discontented about not being better or my children not comparing to others, I want to remember this: I am the disciple that Jesus loves. When He looks at me, He sees what I see when I look at my son. Wow.

What do you think? Does Jesus spend time considering which of us is better?

Contentment 101

Contentment Success

Contentment Time

Contentment Relationships

 

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How I Got Out of Debt Fast

How I Got Out of Debt Fast

Ways-to-pay-off-debt

In So You're Not Wonder Woman, I describe my financial free fall while I was in graduate school. I was living on $600 a month, so putting $400 in car repairs on my credit card was trouble. I didn't live extravagantly, but I did have cable and insisted on having my own apartment–something I now see led to my accumulating debt. Sharing an apartment with one of my single girlfriends could have shaved at least 40% off my expenses. In addition to the usual expenses, I also had a car payment–not a huge one, but it was a hardship at that income.

I eventually had two credit cards that were maxed out and a medical bill that I was being harassed about paying (I wish now I hadn't had physical therapy for a bad ankle sprain). Foolishly, I used my tax return to take a trip to San Diego. I began working more hours and my income increased to $900 a month. That should have helped, but I moved to a more expensive apartment and bought new furniture to boot. I was at the point of using one credit card to pay off another. I regularly received overdraft notices. I took out bigger student loans. It was just too depressing to admit the truth of my situation: I was in debt. Another poor money manager friend told me at the time that I shouldn't go for credit counseling because they would put me on a budget. Perish the thought.

By today's standards, my debt was a pittance. But the cycle of indebtedness had begun and would have continued once I secured my first job. My student loan debt was over $30,000 in 1991. Again, small by today's standards, but huge to a young woman who didn't know a thing about managing money.

I have a friend who writes a secular blog on managing money and has been a guest blogger on Get Rich Slowly. I have mentioned to her that I could never tell my story of getting out of debt, because it isn't like hers. I didn't wise up, get educated, and get frugal. I didn't pay off my debt; someone else did. I have joked to her that I couldn't very well post about how I got out of debt: I got married. 

I remember my fiance's big sigh when I revealed the whole of my debt. It was embarrassing to admit to a man who owned a home, bought two vehicles with cash, and had a sizable savings account. He immediately paid off all my debt. He never lectured me about money. He didn't enroll me in a finance course or give me a book to read. He just managed money well and I watched and learned. 

I read this post requesting get-out-of-debt stories and I finally felt moved to share mine. I realized that while my story won't get raves from finance fans, it should from faithful followers of Christ. Though I had much to be ashamed of, my Redeemer paid off my debt. I didn't. Now I spend my life learning from Him. 

Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Do you have a get out of debt story, financial or spiritual?

Photo Credit

 

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From Choker to Champion

From Choker to Champion

Freese

Tonight I watched Game 6 of the World Series in which Cardinals player, David Freese, dropped an easy pop fly that one of my kids could have caught. He choked. In front of an audience of millions. 

My heart went out to him. I've been there. Almost literally! I was a catcher in a girls' softball championship tournament and dropped an easy pop fly. I think more than once! Fortunately I don't remember that little detail. But I'll never forget the sick feeling in my stomach, the shame, and the self-loathing. 

The game (in case you weren't watching) looked like a sure loss for the Cardinals because David Freese's wasn't the only error. My husband was practically snoring in the ninth inning. We both thought, "We messed up; it's over." 

But miracle of miracles, the Cardinals' hopes were resuscitated with a last-minute hit from none other than David Freese. Much too soon, that hit seemed for naught because once again the rival Rangers were up two runs. We figured we had a nice rally, but the night would end in defeat. Instead, in extra innings, home boy David Freese hit a home run to end the game.

Suddenly, David who we expected to be despised and dejected when the game was over, was heralded as a champion. When he was interviewed afterward, David was able to laugh about "looking like an idiot" because he had been redeemed. He explained the Cardinals' unlikely victory by crediting his coach, Tony LaRussa. David said, "He knows what he's doing."

What a thrill this game was, not just because it was a nail biter and my team won, but because we saw our lives being played out on that field. We're all chokers like David. While we expect to be despised and rejected for looking like idiots, we'll be redeemed champions when the game's over. After all, we have a Coach who "knows what He's doing." 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

 

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