Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Me? Assertive? ; Bringing a Spiritual Perspective to Daily Life

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Me? Assertive? ; Bringing a Spiritual Perspective to Daily Life

Article excerpt

"Annette, you've got to fight them. Get tough. Be strong!"

As I glance down at the sidewalk, all I can think is, "Nope. Don't want to."

My friend is trying to help. I'm being taken advantage of, and he knows it. The trouble is he's asking me to act in a way that doesn't come very easily to me. "Assertive" is one label no one would ever stick to me.

He continues his advice, simply ignoring my silence, with a voice that's adamant, unrelenting, and truly persistent - a perfect example of the attitude I'm expected to simulate.

Eventually, all his determination rallies up some small dose of courage, and the problem is solved in my favor. But afterward, instead of feeling happy about how well everything worked out, a feeling of emptiness rattles inside.

Why had I been so resistant to standing up for myself? What was I afraid of? Hard questions to face. The truth is I don't like disagreements. Staying clear of confrontation is something I've mastered through many years of superficial smiles and agreeing nods. I've earned a great reputation among family and friends with my "nice guy" attitude, but along the way I've taken on responsibility for many problems that weren't mine to fix.

My smile hid a scared and timid person - afraid of judgment or criticism, and especially fearful of finding the right words to say when contradicted. Slipping into constant agreement steered me clear of conflict. Constantly being nice can seem the ultimate expression of goodness on the surface, but it's an ugly mask if I refuse to be good to myself as well.

Moments of soul-searching uncover not only what seems to be lacking - the quality of strength; but also what appears to have sneaked into its place. And I don't like it. I've discovered weakness.

Feeble, frail, pathetic - these words describe weakness. I can do without those qualities in my life. Tougher and more determined are what I desire to be, stronger and persistent. However, I need to remain loving. I can never give up my loving nature. Developing it has been too darn hard.

Trying to picture strong and loving working together is nearly impossible to me. …

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