My oldest daughter, her husband, and my wife were conversing around the lunch table on Saturday. My daughter had been invited by the leader of an exercise class to demonstrate an exercise that she’d excelled in. Then for some reason my daughter made this comment, “Well, I always knew keeping my weight down was important.” It came out of no where. It seemed disconnected to the conversation and it caught me off guard.
I’m short and slender. I run marathons. I was in the lighter weight classes on the wrestling team. I’ve never had a problem with my weight. Our daughters pretty much fall into the same category. The daughter in question weighs 100 lbs--maybe. Staying slim has never been a problem for her. Even after pregnancy. It’s just not an issue. But for her to tell me that she knew that this was important to me, even as a kid, took me back. “When did I ever say that?” I protested. “Never,” she said. “I just knew it was important to you.”
Somehow I leaked a value that I never intended to. It’s made me think. Several things became clear:
(1) What’s going on inside me is going to leak out, even if I don’t intend it to. So I have to ask, “What’s going on inside me? What am I communicating about myself and others acceptability, based on my own thoughtless comments?” I sometimes make fun of myself in front of others due to my small stature and slender frame. It really doesn’t bother me. I’m not embarrassed by it. It’s fun, and frankly, sometimes funny. But I now wonder if I’ve made heavier people uncomfortable by speaking in such a flippant fashion about a problem many of them have; namely keeping their weight under control.
(2) This value, or reality, effected my daughter. It shaped her life. Without even meaning to, I somehow contributed to the insane body image issue of our western culture; namely that if you’re not thin and beautiful, you’re not that significant. And if you are, well then you’ve got significant currency in this culture. She’s thin and she’s beautiful. She’s got currency. But that’s not the point! What if she wasn’t?
All of this has grabbed my attention while reading Matthew 23 and Jeremiah 9 in the bible. In Matthew 23 the religious leaders had all sorts of inner spiritual issues. They looked great on the outside, but on the inside their lives were on a tragic trajectory; one that came to fruition in the crucifixion of their Messiah. In Jeremiah 9, the nation of Israel had made all kinds of gods out of all kinds of things. Perhaps I’ve made a god out of being physically fit, being in shape, or being slender in a world that values thinness and beauty.
In all of this, I’ve learned that the values of our hearts leak out in ways we are unaware of. And our families, for better or worse, have formed and shaped those values in us. If you are from a family or have a family of your own there will be a legacy! What do our comments, our actions, our thoughts and motives say about what we value? What will they leave as a legacy? If we are unaware of our own family of origin issues, it only means we’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Being spiritually healthy means we allow God to make us aware of, and then actually deal with, our family of origins.
I think for me, this is instructive in that I want to be less critical of others imperfections and differences of opinion and more aware of my own. The harsh and often shrill tone of our current political, and cultural, dialogue suggests very few of our countries leaders actually have this kind of self-awareness. We leak. We all leak something! What is it you leak? What does it mean? And when you discover it, will you take the time to ask the hard question, “Why am I thinking, feeling, or acting that way?” Stop. Slow down. Look for the leaks. And when you find them, begin the long process of repair that comes by anchoring those life changes in the sacrificial life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s worth it.