Sometimes there’s a feeling we have when we are around a certain person. Maybe it’s at work, maybe it’s a friend or family member. Maybe it’s someone at a community group or a certain leader. Maybe it’s when we see their face on social media. When we are around that person, we feel inadequate. We feel like we don’t measure up. We feel intimidated or small. We always act differently around this person. We usualy end up feeling stupid for how we act around that person. Or we feel dumb for what we say. So our feelings compound.
When we’re with that person, we feel awkward inside — there’s this pressure in our chest. It’s so uncomfortable that even when we just think about this person, we have that uncomfortable feeling inside.
Those feelings pop up like whack-a-moles in our chest for at least one of two reasons. First, that certain person may exhibit intentional negative countenance or language towards us that makes us feel small. For example, that person can be passive aggressive, arrogant, or rude towards us and we feel small because of it. Second, those feelings may pop up within us just because we feel inadequate, regardless of who the person is or the way they treat us. In other words, we just feel small by no fault but our own. Perhaps the best example of this is when we feel small around someone we don’t really know — we feel inadequate until we actually get to know that person. Then we realize that the feelings were a hoax within us, not because of the other person.
In both cases, there is one common theme. Both the person who makes someone else feel small or the one who feels unjustifiably inadequate around another person has the same problem: there’s something inside that makes them feel or act this way.
That something inside of us is a deficiency. The deficiency is a curable disorder I’ll call: A misunderstanding about our humanness. The problem is wide sweeping; it crops-up in us all. But there is a cure.
A few years back I met a new friend at a community event in our city. Over the years I became great friends with him and his family. We went for a walk a few weeks back (before the COVID lockdown) and he asked me, “What was your first impression of me when we first met?” It was a great question. I responded by saying I was kinda scared of him (he was a convicted criminal in a former life, who got his life turned around, maybe I had good reason to be scared). I then asked him the same question. He said his first impression of me was he felt very intimidated — those uncomfortable feelings popped up inside of him.
Was he just insecure? Or was I the problem?
He went on to say that I came across as kind of arrogant. His words hit me in the gut. But I knew he was right — I’ve struggled with pride for a long time. Something I’ve been trying to shake.
The point of my story is that both my friend and I had those whack-a-mole feelings when we were around each other for the first few years of our friendship. I felt a little awkward around him. He felt kinda small around me sometimes.
But over time something amazing happened. We cultivated a friendship over the last 4 years to the point where I never feel awkward anymore. And he feels the same way. In fact, it’s such a cool experience to have a friend that you can feel that comfortable with. So what happened? The answer is, we came to realize, over time, that we are the same. Our pasts are very very different. We look very different. But we share one amazing thing in common that cured and neutralized the feelings of inadequacy: our humanity. Remember the problem behind the curable deficiency? It’s a misunderstanding about our humanness.
In the early days, I was arrogant around my friend because I misunderstood who I was. I thought I was better than him. And I was so wrong. I was misunderstood about myself. I’m just normal old me.
As I write this, I’m realizing that there may be other people in my orbit who I may have made to feel small or inadequate. Those people should know this: The problem is not you. The problem is me. I’m sitting here, not knowing what to write next because I don’t even know the extent of the problem inside me! I have a problem. I make others feel inadequate, sometimes. It’s my fault.
That’s part of what it means to be human — is to have faults. It’s not an excuse — it’s just part of who we are. And when we come to grips with this reality — that we are all broken — we can begin to unscrew why we do what we do, say what we say and feel what we feel. More importantly, we can begin to recognize that we need healing for our brokenness.
The misunderstanding about our humanness is that we think we are something more than we’re not. By nature, we’re arrogant. Rude. Prideful. Unkind. These deficiencies are in our bones. And we do all these things because we forget that we are human. And we forget that to be human is to be broken. We need to accept, as an ancient sage put it, “That the heart of humanity is broken above all things…” (Jer 17:9). Only when we come to understand this about our human nature can we come to understand how we are to relate to others.
Maybe you act arrogantly towards a family member. Or a co-worker. Maybe you think your better than a certain people group. Maybe you exhibit intentional negative countenance towards a politician, party or leader — yes, that includes your comments in the dark corners of your feed.
The fact is, we have these feelings because we are broken inside. The other person or group is not responsible for the way we feel, no more than my friend wasn’t responsible for how I felt about him. When I first met my friend, I misunderstood who my friend really was because I misunderstood who he was and who I was, that’s why I exhibited arrogant countenance towards him. And listen to this. Later he admitted that the feelings of inadequacy that he had when he was around me was just a misunderstanding. That misunderstanding vanished, he said, when he realized that I was just a broken as he was.
Maybe you are the person who intentionally makes others feel inadequate or just leaks out passive aggressive ooze. Or maybe you go through your day feeling insignificant and inadequate whether you are around people or not. Maybe you feel inadequate if you just see someone’s post on Facebook. In both cases, we do this because we don’t really understand what it means to be human.
Part of what it means to be human is to be broken. When we come to accept this, our world becomes a better place.
As promised, there’s a complete cure for our internal misunderstanding about humanness and those lousy feelings that bubble up within us. The cure is putting our broken life in the hands of Jesus who was perfect, yet became broken for us.