I was watching a food documentary the other day- its honestly one of my favorite things to do- and a doctor being interviewed was talking about the high levels of stress we are constantly under in this day and age. She said one of the best things you can do for yourself, since your body was built to self-heal, was to “Give yourself permission to sleep. Sleep when you can, as long as you can, and as often as you can.” She even went as far as to say that b/c most people don’t give themselves permission to sleep, she would often have to write them a prescription so they would feel “given” permission to take care of themselves. While the whole idea of sleeping when I need to sounded wonderful, it was the “give yourself permission” part that captivated my thoughts for the rest of the day. I have always referred to it as giving myself grace but I thought it even more poignant to have it said in this new way.
I think what we lack as human beings is the ability to give ourself and others permission. By our actions we indicate what is “allowed” and what is not. For example, if you grew up being told it was “weak” to cry, then most likely you tighten up when the moment arises and your emotions are so strong you want to burst into tears but you can’t show that sign of weakness. What is even more saddening is that when we don’t allow ourselves to respond in a moment that completely warrants brokenness, we are inadvertently telling others they can’t break either b/c it would indicate weakness.
As humans we fear showing weaknesses. But as disciples we are encouraged to celebrate our weakness b/c it is yet another area in our life/personality/self for God to show up and utilize His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
I think moms are the worst at giving themselves permission for anything. I call it “mom guilt.” Society tells you to take care of yourself and then your family but if you set aside time to go work out or take a break or relax you are bombarded with the thoughts of being selfish and ungrateful. Your “break” becomes ridden with guilt and you return to your family feeling worse than before. As a mom its hard to say YES to yourself when others depend on you on a regular basis. We aren’t giving ourselves permission.
One of the lessons I learned when I got smacked in the face with depression after our adoption took place, was that I was one of these people. I thought I was giving people permission to be broken around me but truth is, I wasn’t. I wasn’t b/c people still saw me as so strong. When people see you as some kind of hero or super mom/dad/wife/friend etc then you lose your ability to meet them where they are at. You can’t take people to a place you aren’t willing to go yourself. Depression was a tool God used in my life to show others that I wasn’t anything more (or less) than they are.
And before you write this off as some new age or self-help technique look at Scripture. All over the place you see people crying out to God b/c they can’t fulfill His calling on their own strength. Does God or Jesus ever respond with “Suck it up! It’s not that hard.” NO! Often the response is gentle. He gives an invitation to seek comfort from His arms b/c they are not only capable to help but they have done it before (Hebrews 4:15). He doesn’t sympathize with us- meaning He has never been there but can imagine its difficulty, He shows empathy. Empathy is a feeling that can only come from having been there Himself and knowing from personal experience what its like to do something/ be someone that you don’t feel up to the task to do/be. He gives you permission to not be “enough” on your own.
So ask yourself: Are you giving yourself permission? Are you allowing yourself to be seen as weak/broken/vulnerable/normal? If not, then I can assure you that people who are weak/broken/vulnerable/normal won’t come to you when they need advice or a friendly face. You haven’t given them permission to.