As a kid, I remember how exciting it was the first time I talked bad about one of my friends behind her back, and realized that some people gave me more time of day when I did that. I knew I was supposed to show respect to everyone, so I kind of felt like a rebel, talking about someone behind her back, and getting fed the attention that I longed for as the awkward and insecure 5th grader that I was.
Growing up, I remember how oddly stirring it was to yell, scream, and get ridiculously angry at my sister for getting in my way every morning as we’d try to get ready together in the bathroom before school. There was a sense of prideful excitement that came from the hateful words I’d spew at her every day, simply as punishment for her asking to take up a little space in our home, too. I knew I was supposed to be kind to others, but it felt good to be mean – like an exerting of my power, a marking of my territory.
Throughout college, I remember the exhilaration that came from the sheer act of hating myself. I remember how satisfying it felt to reprimand myself for not being good enough according to my impossibly high and altogether distorted standards, by talking to myself cruelly, and routinely engaging in various forms of self-punishment. It was almost like some kind of dirty little secret: making it look like I had my stuff together on the outside (smiling, cheery, and on my way to success), but not telling anyone that my mode of transportation wasn’t one of love or respect for myself, but instead one of hatred and self-deprecation.
I believe in a God who is love, and a God who calls us to show respect, kindness, and love to ourselves and others as part of our purpose here on earth. While we no doubt have free will to do whatever we want, and while I am by and large NOT a fan of portraying God as a god of rules (He is so much better than that), in the interest of making this blog post work, you might consider these three things I just mentioned a few key “rules” that God would like his children to follow, for the purpose of the betterment of his world and his children.
So I’ve realized some things lately (which seems to be the reason for most of these blog posts, doesn’t it?).
Well first, I’ve realized that the thrill of breaking rules and the excitement of an adrenaline rush are things that are part of the human experience. I think it’s natural and not necessarily a bad thing that we crave them to an extent.
Second, I’ve realized that I have spent the larger part of my life claiming to believe in these rules, or beliefs, of respect, kindness, and love for all, but have found myself getting my fixes of adrenaline, excitement, and the thrill of rebellion largely from breaking these rules.
Another thing I’ve realized: I am not perfect (seriously, nowhere even close), but I have noticed that I don’t, or try not to, break these rules quite as often as I used to anymore… and yet, my human cravings for adrenaline fixes, the thrill of rebellion, and subsequent excitement are still being satisfied… which has led me to ask the question,
If I’m no longer breaking the rules of God (at least not as much), then whose rules am I breaking?
I can be really fake sometimes. I blame it on American culture, but in reality, I have a natural tendency to be phony and try to act “normal,” and I just never did anything about it. Lately though, I’ve been trying to fight against this tendency. Not all the time – that would be overwhelming for both me and whomever I’m speaking with – but sometimes. Sometimes, I’ve been trying to be more real, and more me. Turns out the real me is VERY different than the fake me. She’s much more quirky and honest. She’s also much louder and more talkative. Interestingly enough, she’s also much more confident. And every time I am the real Elizabeth, it’s the weirdest thing; I feel like the biggest rebel.
It’s like, my whole life, the world has taught me that fitting in, even if it means talking bad about other people behind their backs to make myself look better, and punishing myself into looking and sounding like everyone else, is what’s best. And for the first time, I’m rebelling against the world by being kind of quirky and weird, but real and honest, and even awkward and sometimes insecure… but I’m letting other people see those sides of me in a way that my 5th grade self never did.
If I had to sum it up in a sentence, when I used to meet people, I’d say some variation of, “Hi, I’m Elizabeth; nice to meet you!” then smile politely. And now I’m kind of just like, “Hi I’m Elizabeth this is who I am I’m a little different and weird and honestly most of the time a hot mess but hey aren’t we all do you want to be friends if not no problem take me or leave me!”
The reactions I get are so much more fun and varied than when I just say hi and smile, which makes it all so much more exciting.
Another thing: maybe you’ve noticed, I’ve been sharing more lately on here. Not just words or posts in general, but the last year or so I’ve been sharing more about me, what I stand for and what I don’t, who I hope to be and who I wish I wasn’t… real things, fun things, confusing things, sometimes dark things.
And it’s funny; every time I click Publish on a blog post, or post the link on social media allowing other people to read it, my heart rate goes up a little, my palms get sweaty, and I get kind of nervous-excited… the same kind of nervous-excited I used to get when I would be a jerk to my sister, or punish myself in secret and pretend everything was fine.
To take a common metaphor too far, it’s kind of like all my life, I’ve had LOADS of dirty laundry that I hoarded all for myself and just let accumulate and fester. And now, due in large part to other people giving me permission, and ultimately me giving myself permission, and also just due to the fact that my laundry room is totally full, I’m airing all of my dirty crap out.
A couple things: one, turns out dirty laundry doesn’t smell nearly as bad when it’s out in the open and not tucked away in a tiny room in your home. And two, what’s even better is as soon as you’re like, “Hey guys, look at this dirty laundry I have!” other people tend to react with, “No way, I have that same exact dirty outfit! Look!” and air out their dirty laundry, too. And then it not only becomes much less stinky, but an opportunity is born to do laundry together, and clean things up as a community. And let’s be honest, chores are always way more fun when you’re doing them with other people.
All this is to say that as of late, I’ve been getting my “adrenaline fixes” from breaking rules, but I’ve been breaking the rules of the world that tell us to play it safe, fit in, stay the same, pretend everything’s fine, and act phony around other people. And it’s been working for me.
I spent the beginning of my life breaking the rules of the divine, which left me lying in bed at the end of each day, exhausted, but staring at the ceiling unable to sleep, with a pit in my stomach.
I’m finding that breaking the rules of the world leaves me lying in bed at the end of each day quite the opposite: exhausted, sure, but with my eyes closed and a sense of peace in my heart… not to mention much more fulfillment, joy, and true-ness within myself than I’ve ever felt before.
So I think I’m kind of done trying to break the rules of God. Love, respect, and kindness are all good things, and I want to expand those things, not diminish them.
I’d like to spend the rest of my life breaking the rules of the world instead. I think life will be much more beautiful and productive this way… and I think I’ll incidentally sleep much better, too.
If you’re interested in also pursuing a life of breaking rules that are meant to be broken, and/or if you’d like to watch me as I try to do this myself, I would love it if you’d subscribe below.
Thanks for reading!
To the rule breakers of the world,