Archive for the ‘personal change’ Category

So far, in our Tough Cookie Series we have taken a look at The Demanding FriendThe Unaware FriendThe Disappearing Friend and The Unforgiving Friend, The Guilting Friend.  We’ll close with the Confusing Friend.

With the Olympics these last few weeks I’ve noticed how meaningful each country’s anthem, played in their language, feels to the gold medalist. They suddenly hear their language, unique and special to their identity.

In friendship, we all speak a language unique to us. And our family of origin or our spouse know it better than anyone else. The key to good friendships is finding someone who wants to learn our language. And I’m not just talking about love language, I’m talking about the specific words we use that mean something nuanced to me or you.

When my husband and I find our son with a tummy ache, our first response is, “I’m sorry.”  This is our family’s way of saying “I’m sad you are in pain. I wish I could make it better.”

But that’s just our family. When our babysitter hangs out with our son, she was intrigued that a two year old is so quick to say, “I’m sorry.” She’s surprised that he tells her, “I’m sorry,” when she scratches her arm on the hike.

She and most of the world use “I’m sorry,” to communicate personal responsibility in the pain.  But in our family it means something different.

This doesn’t mean that the way we use, “I’m sorry” is the right way.  It is simply our shorthand to empathize.

We all have ways to communicate unique to us, our language. But to others this dialect can feel confusing.

The longer you walk with a close friend the more chances you’ll have to face their confusing side.

We communicate one thing, but our friend hears something else.  The only way out of confusing-ness is to learn how to communicate, not necessarily better, but more appropriately. Friendship is nothing if not learning another language.

Each friendship gives us new ways to communicate. In the end we’ll both know another language.

Friendship is one way immersion. Each friendship is a two-way language course, with new confusing ways of communication crossing and hopefully forcing each of us to stop and evaluate how to communicate better. We’ll both leave changed, not just one of us.

If your friend requires you to do all the language learning and has not learned your ways of communicating, guess what?

You’re being treated as a foreigner in your friend’s country with no emotional culture or language to share.  Instead you need to be acting as two sojourners traveling to each other’s countries.

Sometimes it’s easier to spot these foreigner friends in other situations than in our friendships.  You see the mother who requires her child to fit into her life from food to bedtime to travel. She makes no accommodation for her child’s sleep schedule or eating needs. The child’s language is being erased by the mother’s. Or you see the mother who terminates all her work, interests and outside-the-home hobbies for her child. She forgets what used to make her feel alive, she stops having friendships outside of her children’s friend’s parents. She loses her own language for her child’s.

Both mothers are losing something precious.

The same with friendships. We each have friends who have required that we learn their language. The question that is key is how have your friends learned yours? How have you asked them to change their communication for your needs?

If your friend asks you to text her back immediately to show you care, how have you (say you’re an introvert) explained that you feel close when your friend doesn’t expect to see you each week. How has your friend learned your language enough to respect and speak your language (maybe an email instead of demanding a get-together each week).

Confusing friends are normal, but one-way confusion leads, inevitably, to an imperialistic relationship.  We don’t want to be the colony that our friend takes over and remakes her image.  We all need to know that our language, even if it at first feels like confusing communication, is cared about enough for someone to learn our native tongue.

But if you find yourself learning lots of new languages with your friends, but not seeing your friend’s learning your language… it’s time to find a better friends.

Good friends want to know how to speak with you, in your language. And they will make the effort to keep trying, even if their pronunciation is off and their grammar silly.

They will try because they think you are worth it.


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I am reading a book I highly recommend, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown.  Brown is a researcher and educator that lives in Houston, Texas and her work on shame and vulnerability is both needed and valuable.  View it for yourself in her TED presentation (definitely worth watching!) or begin stepping your way through her words.

As we wrap up Let Me Be Me and transition into our new, punchy website (out in September!), this August Tidbit focuses on what it means to Be Me.  Only certain types of friendships offer us safe places for “me to be me”,  to say what I really think, be afraid, try new things, to disagree, cry, or admit things I am ashamed about…to be authentic.

What does that mean: be authentic?  Brown makes these statements about authenticity:

…in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen. (TED)

…authenticity is not something we have or don’t have.  It’s a practice – a conscious choice of how we want to live.  Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.  It’s about the choice to show up and be real.  The choice to be honest.  The choice to let our true selves be seen.

The idea that we can choose authenticity makes most of us feel both hopeful and exhausted.  We feel hopeful because being real is something we value…We feel exhausted because without even giving it too much thought, most of us know that choosing authenticity in a culture that dictates everything from how much we’re supposed to weigh to what our houses are supposed to look like is a huge undertaking.

As many of us hope for friendships that are safe and accepting, Brown’s words are an encouraging reminder that we all struggle with authenticity, with vulnerability, with showing our true heart, with allowing someone else to see.  And she’s definitely right about one thing –  it is a choice.

photo credit: Sally H. Falwell

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Let Me Be Me is writing a Summer Series!  June starts our Tough Cookie series off with “The Demanding Friend” (Sally) and “The Unaware Friend” (Jonalyn).  July and August will bring some more examples of the difficult types of women women we can be (oh no!) or run across.  To whet your palate…you will read about The Unforgiving Friend (aka: Grudge Holder), and The Guilting Friend…and a few more!


Hiding in Plain Sight

Getting straight to the point, a demanding friend is one that requires you to behave a certain way to keep them “okay” and keep the relationship in tact.  In such a relationship there is a lack of freedom and safety to be who you are. Demanding friends find sanctuary in relationships that do not challenge who they are; they prefer relationships that do not threaten their inner-secrets, their bad behavior, their immense sadness, their insecurities, their self-aborption.  These relationships usually have a feigned sense of closeness and usually last until one person is not able or willing to meet the demands of the other.

Built On…

A demanding relationship is built on similarity and unspoken agreements about relationship roles.  Most people feel comfortable with similarity, and we can find similarity everywhere.

  • skills and interests
  • spiritual beliefs
  • religious practices
  • personal history
  • eating styles and practices
  • emotional health
  • eating styles, preferences, practices
  • hobbies (e.g. reading, cooking, writing)
  • marital status
  • political views
  • sexual practices and beliefs
  • work and career

Unspoken Agreements: People set up unspoken agreements all the time…its the ones that restrict freedom that get us into relational and emotional trouble.  You call me, I don’t call you.  You seek me out.  You let me care for you.  We don’t talk about the real me, we don’t talk about the real you.  You must not change.  I am never wrong.  I dominate discussions.  You need to agree with me.  I am strong, you are weak (or vice versa).

Supply And Demand

In a healthy relationship, there is a balance between individuality and connection.  If one is more than the other, one person is likely to have lost some individuality.  When one side of a friendship is more demanding, there is less freedom to move with your own thoughts and feelings, similarities and differences, share and speak freely, or say, “No.”.

Photo Credit: Sally H. Falwell

An interesting thought on this account is that freedom is always there for the taking…if I give into the emotional demands a friend makes on me, it is not only that she takes my freedom, it is that I let her have it.  (Yikes…chew on that a bit!).  This is where the “supply and demand” play on words fits in – two women’s unhealthy ways fitting together like puzzle  pieces – one supplies what the other demands.  In healthier relationships there is no need to fit like puzzle pieces, both women can maintain their individuality without being threatened by their differences, there is room for more than one opinion, both champion the other…more like holding hands, rather than fitting like pieces.

Who Me?!

Me, demanding?  No.  Absolutely not.

But truthfully, we all do it.  We all use other people to keep us emotionally stable.  Many of us can correct or apologize for ways we demand others to care for us, but demands can also get out of hand.  For instance, if I am high on the demanding side and prefer not to hear things about me that hurt or bother other people, I will likely respond with coolness, sharp words, interrupting, explaining myself, punishing responses (e.g. I am no longer available for our weekly tennis game and coffee), instead of listening and absorbing, discussing and learning.

So in essence, if you poke around my sensitive areas, if you upset me, if you hang out with someone else, if you don’t invite me –  I respond in ways that demand that you return to normal behavior that soothes me.  I demand that you keep me happy in this relationship.  Your hurt and your experience,your wants and needs,  your input and your insight are much less important, since my asserting control over areas I feel insecure becomes my main task.

To regain control, I might talk about you behind your back, swear off the friendship, get a new “bestie”, not return your calls, pout passive-aggressively, say ugly things to you that hurt your feelings or pick a fight with you…  I might be subtle in my actions, or I might be loud.  Anything to help us return to our “normal” way of being.  Then, we will probably not talk about what happened, so that honesty and reality can be kept at bay.

What Does A Demanding Friend Look Like

  • focused on getting their way
  • uses words or tone of voice to change your mind
  • reacts with anger or coldly to bring me closer or push me away
  • the relationship runs hot and cold, on and off again
  • minimizes my role in the relationship, my thoughts, feelings, my decisions
  • strong preferences, strong reactions
  • codependency
  • reacts if you are not “there for them” or available…they emotionally faint without support (i.e. so they require relationships to hoist them to stronger positions)
  • the friendship centers around her needs, her schedule, her house, her skills, her interests…or – during times of stress, the friendship entered this territory and is less balanced and inclusive of both individuals.
  • Can exist in any type of female relationship – family relationships (e.g. mother/daughter, sisters), church or religiously-linked friendships (e.g. spiritual mentor), long-time friends.

Uh-Oh, My Friend Is Demanding…What Do I Do?

Relationships that grow who we are are relationships that let us be, and encourage us to pilot our own lives (which can be quite scary at times).  Friendships that do not have these qualities are worth looking at and deciding your next steps, your level of involvement and commitment.  If you are on the other end of the demanding friendship, over-offering yourself, constantly giving in, losing your individuality to keep the peace…consider that this friendship gives you something to do, offers you a feeling of being needed, a special significance (i.e. supply and demand).  But the counterpart to that is a murky self, a lose sense of value in a relationship.

There is always the option of confronting a friend, which is scary, difficult and revealing.  Most people want to confront someone as much as they want to drink sour milk, but there are strong, loving ways to confront.  If the relationship is heavily unhealthy or borders on codependency, a “break-up” might be in order.   Any change in a relationship brings risk, and with risk there can be loss; you may have to grieve the loss of a friend.

Ready For Something New

If I am moving out of a demanding friendship, I can remember that new friends await me.  Not all women are demanding, not all women require that you be other than you are.  A genuine friendship is quite valuable and requires effort, openness and patience, and sometimes as an adult the task seems much more daunting than it did on the first day of second grade.  I might also need time to heal, and getting support is always an option.  Confronting myself can be as challenging as confronting someone else, but the rewards are indescribable and my relationships reap the benefits of how I take care of myself.

One of the most beautiful, prized things on this earth is who you are. A gem, a masterpiece.  Another person does not need to fill you up, it is not necessary that you, the masterpiece that you are, be hidden under someone else.


Boundaries: When To Say Yes, When To Say No, To Take Control of Your Life

Please Don’t Say You Need Me

The New Codependency

Forgiveness and Reconciling: Bridges To Wholeness and Hope

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In my work with Soulation women often email me asking for advice.  Sometimes close friends want to know my theological position on a controversial topic.  Commenting women come to my blog often wanting me to both connect with their question and connect with them.

Are these all my friends? In what way?

Photo credit: .kenokel.com

What are my responsibilities with each of these friends?

How do we make definite yes and no decisions about friends who seems kind, but for whom we just don’t have time.

I feel frustrated, regularly, by the lack of time I can dedicate to those I’m acting as a mentor, counselor and spiritual guide to. Each speaking trip and book sold means I will probably get more practice with this frustration.

As an extrovert I usually feel delighted and eager to try. And try I do.

But befriending for life every person who wants to connect is not a reality, nor is it kind to my life-long friends.

Each of us has had the difficult decision to know how to understand a friendship’s limits.

Sally gave some helpful distinctions between a Four Seasons Friend, a Hot and Cold Friend and a Seasonal Friend.  What I loved about her post is how she shared that none of these friendships are better or worse. Rather, you decide which friendships you want to invest your time with.

Dating the Wrong Guys?

The first step in deciding friendships is taking time inventory.  How much time do you currently have to devote to a new friendship? This is a tricky evaluation because after work or church or family or hobbies and friends we don’t have a lot of time.

But just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re happy-busy. Just like a date Friday night doesn’t mean it’s a fun date. In friendship, like dating, it’s easy to waste time with the wrong peeps.

Photo credit: davidwygant.com

It’s been my observation that most women spend at least some of their time with friends they do not enjoy.  In fact, there’s something in women that keeps us hanging on to friends with drama, controlling tendencies, hot and cold patterns all in an effort to be “nice.”  It’s the good girl complex that keeps us from evaluating if this friendship is a life-giving place of growth.

Two years ago I wrote this in the post “The Recipe for a Good Friendship

Psychologist Jean Baker Miller writes about five components that make up all “growth-fostering relationships”.

Each person will feel:

  1. a greater sense of zest (vitality, energy).
  2. more able to act and does act.
  3. a more accurate picture of herself and the other person.
  4. a greater sense of worth.
  5. more connected to the other person and a greater motivation for connections with other people beyond those in this friendship. In other words, frenemies drop away and friendship becomes more possible.

Friends who do not bring life can very easily book you up all week long.  No friendship ought to keep you from growth.

Put another way, keep your Friday nights free for someone else.

Top Three

I believe it helps to consider that you can only be really close to a handful of friends. Closeness requires awareness of the everyday occurrences.

Photo credit: Sex and the City

You already have close friends in your life. If they’re mothers, they’re the friends that you’ve already asked and found out how their Mother’s Day went.  Whether you like it or not, these are probably your besties.

I’ve found I can only be really close to two, maybe three friends. And I’m a high energy extravert. I entitle them to know how I’m feeling before and in more detail than any other friends.  Sally is one of them.

I reserve knowledge about my feelings for our conversations that (even if other friends ask) I do not share in this kind of detail.

I call to cry or rail or laugh or announce things to Sally and a few others before I post it online, before I share with others.

Even if others ask.

My Four Season Friends have priority.


Any time I feel guilty for not being “nice” which translates into devoting longer and longer emails or phone calls or play dates or information to friends who want to be closer I consider this question, “Are they in my top three?”

If no, then I give myself the freedom to not make them top priority.

By saying no to them, I’m saying yes to my three.

In fact, I can say, “No,” with quiet conviction because I now know nothing really compares to friends who can stand up through all the seasons with me.

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The trend of #liesgirlstell came up on twitter last weekend. I found a lot of retweets of this lie:

“Upload pics to Facebook, comment ‘I look so bad in this picture.'”

Made me think of why Samantha Brick was condemned. She took “bad” pictures and still liked herself.

How dare she!

When I see pictures of myself with other friends on Facebook, I usually look at myself first.  How do I look? Did those clothes work?  Whey didn’t someone tell me my hair looked like that?

Do I look okay?

A good photo can give me a feeling of security, while a bad photo can make me wonder about how well I really come across?

I know I’m not the only one. How many of us have photos in our Facebook albums that we know look better than we really look?

I do.

Right now I have this wallpaper pic on my cellphone background. It’s of me and my son. I’m smiling a typical, non-photo op smile which means the dent in my cheek is obvious and my eyes are crinkled.

It’s a smile of pleasure, not a smile of perfection. But it’s me, that is how I look when I’m happy.

I put it up because it helps me work on the reality of what I look like when I’m not posing.

Each time I pick at my cell phone I get a little reminder that I’m neither glorious or hideous. THAT this is what I look like.

Quick, I tell myself, now look inside, what is bubbling up.

When I’m feeling insecure, the picture bothers me. I don’t want to look like THAT. When I’m feeling relatively stable I think, “Hmm, that girl looks really open and happy. I like her.”

Sometimes I want to change my wallpaper to a picture of my son. It would be easier.

When we post up a picture when we have strawberries on our teeth or one eye closed then it’s fine to say, “I look funny in this picture.” Last night during our family photos I wound up with half-closed eyes for a photo. It looked really funny.

But when we scroll through pictures of ourselves and we’re looking

like we look and our friends think it looks


and we don’t like it.

Well, if it’s an honest picture,

wonder for a bit about why you don’t like that picture of yourself.

Do we judge ourselves for looking just plain?

Do we think we deserve less love for looking less than glossy?

“Bad” pictures are interesting for what they reveal about our own tendency to hate the working body and soul God gave us.  

Take a second and try to observe without criticizing your face.

Or try to giggle at your own photo for second, then notice the soul within.

You might find your insecurity melting into affection.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb …
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!

The Message, Psalm 139:13-14

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Well, What Did You Expect?

I remember I sat with my to-be-husband in a pre-marital counseling session – a sort of deer in the headlights look on my face, but an excitement in moving forward toward marriage.  Now, 14 years later, I still remember one part of the “10 Commandments of Fair Fighting” that our counselor gave us.

Expectations need to be clearly defined and mutually agreed upon.  

This was the type of direction that we did not really digest until our lives began to weave together…and what one person thinks and expects is not always known to the other person.  Where we would go, what was important in our schedule, how we would talk about any given topic.

What Is An Expectation?

As thinking humans, it is natural to have expectations…they help us organize our thinking, our days, our lives.  In a relationship though, it takes some practice to move away from mind reading and into strong and gracious communication.

An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen, a belief that someone should do or achieve something.

This month, we are writing about why some friendships fail.  Our blog on female friendship addresses a variety of topics that example what can happen between two women in a friendship, anything from the delight of really knowing someone to the pain a broken friendship causes to the female heart.

Unmet expectations are often a reason that a friendship breaks down.  Small disappointments based on miscommunication, lack of honesty, inconsistency, personal change can all lead to fractures in a relationship.  Overall, most of us have some basic expectations when we enter into a relationship with another person – emotional safety, loyalty, availability, consistency.

Some expectations are normal ways we exist in society that most people adhere to…I trust that you know not to:

  • lie to me
  • steal from me
  • betray me

Expectations: Getting What I Want

One of the simplest ways to find out what your expectations of another person is watch what happens when you do not get what you want.  Wanting is not a bad thing, until we place our well-being in the hands of another person…creating a situation where if they do not fulfill our expectation for their behavior, we get upset.

Common responses when with an unmet expectation:

  • the emotion anger
  • “But I thought…”
  • “I can’t believe you…”
  • “You knew I…”
  • “You should have known…”

There are also ways that we have expectations set for others that they may not have agreed to:

  • punctuality
  • level of sharing in a relationship
  • similarity
  • confidentiality
  • ease of friendship
  • value the same things
  • always agree

Surprised By The Unknown

Trust and safety are both big factors in the development of a true friendship.  Every one of us has experienced pain at the hands of another, and often protect ourselves with isolation, vows or emotional distance in order that no one can hurt us again.

The result of holding ourselves back from one another is that we feed that little monster called Fear, and we leave a lot of space for miscommunication and misunderstanding, as well as people working with a lack of knowledge.  If my friend does not know certain things about me, and yet I have an expectation for her to behave as if she does, I am setting the friendship up for failure.


An assumption is something that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

Sweet and nice.  These are two adjectives very often used to describe women.  And we believe it, because most of us are sweet and nice…However, we cannot assume that all women are fit for healthy friendship, for honesty, for depth, for endurance.  Many are not.  More than that, we cannot assume that any person knows what we think and feel.

Also, it is easy to not voice an expectation when we fear rejection, and so much easier to make an assumption.

But we know what making assumptions does….  🙂

A Changing of Seasons

Seasonal friendships is a topic we refer to often on our blog.  Life is constantly changing, our roles as women are constantly changing as we enter into our own different eras.  A friendship can definitely fail when new circumstances change – you no longer have cancer, are no longer married, now have children, got married, got a job, have a shift in your belief systems, etc.

A great thing about seasonal friendships is that if we enter a friendship without putting pressure on it to last forever, we can hold the friendship loosely, letting it move with both women’s lives.  As our seasons change, we can remember one another fondly and wish each other well in our new circumstances.  Also, change gives us a great chance to know our friend in their new role – as a working woman, as a mother, as an unattached single woman.  The place the woman holds in your life might be different – she may no longer be a best friend, but might be more of a friend or an acquaintance.

The Past Becomes The Present

Another way expectations impact the stability of a friendship is that we decide who someone is based our previous experiences.  When we live with one foot in the past and one in the present we do not allow ourselves the chance to heal from past hurts and move forward, and we do not trust that there really are needles in the haystack – women who really do make for good, caring, loving friends.  The same way that a woman can have a bad experience with one man and think “All men are pigs!” We can think of all women as catty, bitchy, selfish, backstabbing or shallow.

Clearly Defined And Mutually Agreed Upon

Discussing expectations is a great way to build the trust and safety that a true friendship requires.  This helps keep the air clean between two people…and makes it a bit easier to talk about when something goes awry.

When something is clearly defined, this leaves less room for misunderstanding.

Example:  What does “On Time” mean to you?

  • 5 minutes early
  • right on time
  • within 10 minutes of the beginning

When something is mutually agreed upon, both people feel a sense of understanding, importance and control.  One person’s well-being is not elevated above the other’s.  The “mutually agreed upon” increases the fairness and attention I give to my friend’s thoughts, needs and interpretations – and cuts down on the chance that I demand something of a friend that she has not agreed to.

While talking through expectations can seem a bit awkward, it offers two friends the chance to discover more about who they are and what they desire out of the relationship.  None of us jump into something hoping we fail…but most of the time we want guaranteed success.  Considering the role expectations play in our relationships is one way to prevent a friendship from failing.

Have you had the chance to see what spoken or unspoken expectations do in a friendship?  We’d love to hear!

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Last year I wrote about stitching the cloth of friendship. I want to re-visit some of these threads and push them a little deeper.

For the full conversation, take a moment to re-visit The Recipe for a Good Friendship.

In the comments one reader asked about self-aware-ness, how was it valuable to friendship and what exactly made it good.

Good Self-Awareness

How is self-awareness richer than deep breathing and mat work at a gym?

Photo credit:yogaworldtours.com

Self-awareness is actually a vital ingredient in authentic friendships. Self-awareness is the fuel that powers humble people, those women we’re all drawn to because of their ability to be simply, themselves, no more, no less.

Self-awareness begins with an accurate assessment of who we are, what we can offer, what we can be and what we cannot be.

Self-awareness is precisely the reason most friendships don’t last a lifetime. The more we know about ourselves the more we come to realize our current friends simply don’t know or don’t want to know us.

Not Who I Was

Bee and I used to connect over mocking feminism, now I’m a feminist. What do I do?

In high school Lauren and I played sports together, now we don’t even live in the same town. How can we connect when we don’t have much to connect about anymore?

Ana has kids my age and lives in my town, but we don’t have more to talk about than our kids. Is our friendship worth pursuing?

If friendship requires connection points, and the more points we connect the more close we can be (for more see The Recipe for a Good Friendship), then how are you connecting with your friends?

Are these authentic connections?

Or do you long for more?

If I’ve been faking (so as not to hurt feelings) my interest in knitting club, but then I grow to realize I’d rather watch The Office and make cookies during that time, my knitting friends don’t really know me.

Photo credit:unappreciatedknitter.blogspot.com

By skipping knitting club I’m being more Jonalyn, than by going and making everyone happy. Of course, skipping out on groups that expect you bring up another barrel of issues.

What about hurting their feelings?


And isn’t friendship about working hard when then going gets tough?

Sally and I are big proponents of sticking it out when friendship is hard. We recently got a chance to practice this with each other.

We all want to be faithful friends, but faithful to what?

Faithful to each other


faithful to who we really are.

With a masters degree in ethics, and a firm knowledge of Scripture, I think doing the right things is very important. But as my therapist once said, “Most of life isn’t black and white, right or wrong. We know a few moral commands (think 10 Commandments), but most of life we make decisions with complete freedom from God.”

God says, “You get to choose and remain faithful not to what others expect out of you, but to what I put in you.”

Self-Aware of God’s Ingredients

What did God put in you? What if you were free to find out?

If you want to go or not go to knitting (or any other) club?

To forego the playmate when I really don’t connect with her.

To leave the church because I am more fake than known.

To stop attending that group because I simply bores or exhausts me.

We do too many things because we think they’re “moral issues” when God has said, “You are free.”

So what could you do that would make you more the person God created?

What do you need to stop doing?

What friendships do you know won’t last a lifetime? and for good reason?

Sally writes well on how making changes with our friends involves both kindness and compassion, not simply dropping off the face of the earth. For more about transitioning check out her P.S. What I Haven’t Said.

Regardless, being self-aware in order to become more of who you are will require more work, but it will make you more free.

And this world needs you, the faithful you, the one God made.

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