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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Vallejo

Short Shrift

Each week we introduce our Noisy Narratives podcast with a fun story, anecdote, current event or “word of the day”. It’s amazing how many things are still new or misunderstood even at my ripe ol' age of 50. I love that we can still learn new things.

We discuss an interesting "word of the day" on this weeks podcast. The word is "short shrift" (no that is not a typo). According to Merriam Webster, short shrift is most often used to mean “little or no attention or consideration.” It is sometimes also used to imply when someone spends little time or work on something, or a person makes “short work” of a job or puzzle.

There are pieces and parts of my life I have paid little or no attention to. Not because I’m especially good at them, but often because it’s painful or scary. In those difficult times, self-growth requires too much of myself. I’d rather gloss over an issue and pay it “little consideration” than spend time examining something hard to look at. I short shrift an aspect of myself that requires deeper attention in order to pretend it’s not even there. Some would call this compartmentalizing, and it is surprisingly easy to do.

A friend of mine, we will call her Trixie, for years struggled in her friendships and her marriage. When experiencing disagreements within her friend group, she felt they did not like her and couldn’t stand to be around her. Same with her husband. Any disapproval from those she was close to sent her into a tailspin of sadness and depression. Daily tasks became full of potential land minds because Trixie was scared of doing something wrong to upset someone she loves. Making sure she went each day without someone disliking something she said or did was her motivation for every decision. Attending lunch with her friends was an anxiety ridden affair where she found it difficult to relax.

Trixie’s friends are kind, sweet people. Her husband is a godly man that, although human and flawed like the rest of us, is not abusive or cruel. Trixie loves him and he loves her, and yet Trixie cannot get away from the excruciating weight of expectations. She knows it’s a problem, but she is determined to short shrift the details about her sadness and anxiety and pretend her emotions are nothing of significance.

Until they are.

Until a short shrift no longer works and her days are consumed with unnecessary details and a fixation on performance. And now she has children. Ensuring their happiness and high performance in all things is mentally and emotionally exhausting. It is now impossible for Trixie to measure up successfully to the lofty measuring stick she has in her own mind. Life becomes unbearable and her ability to control each moment impossible. Afterall, who can control other people, especially little people?

Trixie finally comes to the realization – she needs help. She can no longer do this on her own. It’s time to pay attention to the particulars. A short shrift isn’t going to do – it’s time to consider what is driving Trixie’s desperation for perfection and her sadness when confronted with disagreement. Trixie begins talking in more detail with her husband and friends about her anxiety and expectations. Small conversations become longer and deeper, and a counselor helps her dig into the fallout of a lifetime of living for other people.

Trixie makes some discoveries. Her family of origin was formative (as it is for all of us) and left her with coping techniques that, while survival strategies in the short term, created long term problems for her mind. Trixie remembers only feeling the love of a caregiver when she did something extraordinary. When she cleaned the house or made straight A’s. Any disagreement with an authority figure was considered disrespectful and reason for isolation, something Trixie remembers dreading. Sitting in her room for long periods of time by herself gave her plenty of minutes to contemplate how much her parents must hate her to not want to spend time with her.

As a child, Trixie thought often and deeply about how to be better. A young childhood spent pursuing the love and like of her family, and never feeling good enough for either, produced an adult always waiting for people she loved to send her away.

Trixie spends time looking long and deeply into her childlike heart and taking steps to push through hard conversations with people she cares about. Identifying and sharing her deepest wound and fear helps her husband understand her better and walk with her in a way he could not before. Her friends love on her and care for her through the journey. After months spent examining her motivations and distorted ways of thinking, Trixie is a different person. She’s not perfect, and her old anxieties do rear their ugly heads at time, but she loves well and knows she is loved in return. With the help of God and her family and friends, Trixie knows life is just getting better.

This is one story. We each have our own version of what we chose to short shrift, the things we give little attention to that deserve more thorough examination. Hopefully, you are in a place where God has brought you through incredible growth, and you know how valuable this process is. You know your value and your emotional and mental health is worth the time.

Maybe you are in a place where you wonder what you are worth. I hope you remember you are worth the life of Jesus. God made it so.

Don’t stop learning, growing, and loving your people. Don’t short shrift the important details but DO short shrift the unimportant ones.

Jesus chose a life here on earth to set you free from unrealistic expectations, freedom from shame and perfection. Those are too great of burdens for any of us to bear alone, which is why Jesus bears them for us.

John 8:36 says “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Today on the Noisy Narratives podcast we discuss two distorted thinking patterns; “Should/Must” and “Personalization”. Our conversation is with Licensed Professional Counselor Cara McCloud who dissects the way these negative thinking patterns can lead to shame and controlling behaviors. We also talk through steps to break free from those destructive thought patterns. You don’t want to miss this conversation!

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