For the majority of my life I have ceded control of my life, including decisions, beliefs, values, and morals to others in an attempt to gain approval. I first wanted God's approval and was taught that the only way to get that was through works, holiness and perpetual repentance. The theology I was raised in taught that while I might live a life of holiness (without which no one can see God), if in a moment of weakness I sinned and God returned before I had repented, I would not be taken in the rapture. God was a tyrant who was mercurial and not to be trusted.
The family I was raised in was incredibly dysfunctional, and still is. I was taught that the only way to have my needs met was to go along with whatever dictate the family issued. Someone was always "in" in the family and and someone was always "out." You never knew when your status could change from favored one to disfavored one and you never knew why the status changed. It just did. My family still insists that I live by the rules and roles they have established for me--after 58 years nothing has changed. But I have.
The churches I attended have provided the same message--you can't lead even though God has gifted you with leadership capabilities because we don't believe it is scriptural. You can't wear makeup or cut your hair or wear pants because we have determined that it is not within the standard of holiness, as we define it. You must submit to you husband in everything because he is your spiritual head--it doesn't matter that he is a child molester and has turned to child pornography for sexual gratification. Just go home and keep him happy. Don't think for yourself and for goodness sake, don't make decisions for yourself! You are a woman, a weaker vessel and it is because of you that sin entered the world.
I married a man who, though I thought he was prince charming, turned out to be a very very sick man. I sensed from the very early days of our marriage that something had changed--that he didn't fully accept me or maybe even love me. So I made vows to make myself into just the kind of person he wanted. He didn't like country music, neither did I (but I really did enjoy some of it). He didn't like sports, neither did I. He didn't trust personality profiles or psychological testing, then neither did I. Always wanting to please and always knowing that I never measured up.
And then in a horrible traumatic way, I learned what it would take to please him. And were it possible for me to do or be what he desired, I would refuse. I simply could not/would not become a child again.
A number of months ago I wrote about the most horrible but best Christmas gift I ever received. I didn't know it then but it was my Emancipation Proclamation and Declaration of Independence wrapped messily in one announcement. He no longer wanted to be married to me; we made the decision to divorce.
For three years, I have struggled to survive and to recover from a lifetime of appeasement and approval-seeking. For three years I have worked hard to identify those areas of my life that created vulnerabilities and made me willing to sacrifice myself on the altar of another's desires and preferences. I have learned that I made those sacrifices in order to try to control something that I did not cause and could not cure. I have learned that I ceded my personal power to another, that I gave myself away--that I betrayed and abandoned my inner child, that young bride and now a middle-aged woman. I did this to me. This is my sickness.
So in the quest to rediscover or maybe discover for the first time this self that I had so abandoned, I made the decision to date and recently accepted a wonderful man's proposal of marriage. It is a decision that has been met with incredible resistance, anger and rejection by some in my family. And the choice is offered to me again--acquiesce or be rejected and/or abandoned. Change course or we will offer you the gift of the silent treatment. Go back to the way you've always been, stay in the role we know you for or I/we cannot/will not accept you.
This time the answer is a resounding NO!" I will not abandon myself again for the sake of another, no matter how much I love that person. I shouldn't be asked to. It should not be a requirement of love given or received. My responsibility now is what it always has been--take care of me. It is sad that it has taken me over five decades to figure this out. But I've learned this important lesson and my vow to myself is to never cede power over me to another. I am the only one who gets to control me. In reverence and submission to my PapaGod, it is my job to make decisions for myself. It is a sacred duty that I owe myself and I am determined to fulfill it at last.