Have you ever bumped into someone you used to see all the time, but haven’t seen for ages, and after a while it’s clear they still see you as the person you were all those years ago? They want to talk about the way you were or things you did back then, still relate to you as if you were that goofy kid, that black sheep, that needy attention seeker, that insecure teen? They remember you for all the mistakes you made, for all the fixes you needed rescuing out of, for all the things which caused you shame and which took years for you to accept as being in the past, as being part of your learning, as needing healing and time and forgiveness?
Know those people?
They saw you then and still see you now as all those insecurities that were binding you up. They only identify you with the desperate attempts you made to be liked and accepted. They only ever knew you as that messed up person trying to make sense of it all. And that’s who they still think you are.
But while the heart of you is still the same, you’re not the same person. You know where you begin and end. You no longer seek approval and acceptance. You hung in there and saw through all your decisions, even your mistakes. You did the work, internal and external. And you grew up.
But some people will always see you as the child.
And that’s when it’s time to draw on the fact you now know you don’t need everyone’s approval. You have nothing to prove. You don’t need to explain yourself, what you did, or what you’ve done to make good since.
It is what it is, and it is your truth. This kind of truth doesn’t need to be justified, explained or shouted from the rooftops. It doesn’t need to be trotted out as evidence you are not the mistake-maker, the silly child, the rebel any more.
How others see you is none of your business.
So when you come across people you once knew, your old acquaintances who think they knew you, who related to you as a lesser, novice entity back then and can’t wait to remind you of all your shortcomings and mistakes and errors and try-too-hards, just smile. The you that you are now is who you really are, and this you was always in there.
The only difference is you found your courage, and your self into the bargain.
We put each other in boxes because it helps us stay safe and keep our world predictable. To some, you’ll always be in the box marked “messed up”, or “rebellious kid”, or “drug addict”, or “new Christian”. You may even find they want to put you in a new box labelled “Progressive”, or “emergent”, or “ex-church”, or “in the wilderness”, or any other number of names which they will use to remind themselves how they ought to treat you, relate to you.
But the boxes are theirs. Not yours.
Live loved. Life is too short to live judged.