Fun fact: When I was a kid, I got mad at my sister and decided that changing my name to Little Bo Peep ( a character in an American children’s story) would be the best form of revenge. (naturally) The following dialogue became a large part of my daily routine:
Three-year-old Michelle: (to innocent bystander) ASK ME WHAT MY NAME IS!
Confused stranger: Okay, what’s your name, sweetie?
Michelle: LITTLE BO PEEP
Michelle: but ask me WHY that’s my name!!!
Stranger: Why is that your name?
Michelle: because I like that NAAAAAME!!!
Of course. Flawless three-year-old logic right there. At this point, my mother would come running from three aisles over to apologize to the stranger and remind me again to be quiet and not lie about my identity. I would comply for a few minutes, then either return to my new name campaign or begin belting Glen Campbell’s LIKE A WHINESTONE COWBOY as my sisters giggled. It’s a wonder my mother didn’t go grey right then and there.
So yeah. Three-year-old Michelle liked attention. Fortunately, as I grew older, I became a little more subtle. Full-on ridiculosities and tall tales turned to exaggerations and eventually boiled into an ‘expressive and assertive personality.’ I even learned how to turn this into a skill as I entered the world of theatre and competitive musical performance. Success!
Three recent experiences have made me think about the difference between three-year-old Michelle and eighteen-year-old Michelle in a very different light:
Experience number one: I went to a Bible study the other night, and the leader asked us to write a list of words identify us, be it our hobbies, nationality, et cetera. Having been raised in Sunday School, I was ready for this one. I’m a Christian, duh. A daughter of Jesus, obviously! The leader wasn’t going to trip me up with THAT one! I wrote that at the top before moving on to the little things: my happy disposition, my un-shyness, my talkativeness, my chronic quirkiness, my affinity for everything German, et cetera.
Experience number two: I finished the book of Ecclesiastes. In case you haven’t read Ecclesiastes recently, here’s the jist of it: Everything is meaningless, and fools really get on King Solomon’s nerves. Time and time again, Solomon shows how the wise keep their mouths shut until the time comes when they impart words of wisdom, while the fool keeps on blabbing until it gets them killed.
Experience number three: While waiting in the queue to get a salad today, I scrolled through Facebook and saw an article. It was about the sin of attention seeking and what Christians who struggle with this sin can do about it. It was at that moment that these three experiences fell together and clicked into place.
So… let me get this straight, I thought: I attribute talkativeness to my personality, but King Solomon (literally the wisest guy who ever lived) attributes it to folly, and the author of the article attributes it to attention seeking. Huh. So maybe I don’t shout about my false identity in the grocery store anymore, but come to think of it, I’m still able to see the effects of attention-seeking in my life. I see it in the number of stories I tell, hoping to get a laugh out of my audience. I see it in my inablity to take criticism and in the amount of work I put into gaining approval from certain people. I see it in my urge to compete with people who seem to lead cooler lives than I do. Come to think of it, I have to wonder: Do I really love everything German, or do I love telling people about my love for everything German?
I wonder what would be left of my personality if I became completely humbled. If I lost all attraction to myself and pursued God relentlessly, what would my talking to me be like? I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have much to do with constant babbling about past experiences and sizing people up based on the content of their Instagrams.
I wish I were writing this post from the other side of this struggle. At this point, though, after eighteen years, I’ve only just identified the problem. But now that I’ve had my ‘personality’ called out for what it really is, I’m excited for the journey ahead. I pray that the next time you talk to me, you’ll find me quicker to listen and slower to speak and slower to launch into a 90-decibel monologue about that one time at Oktoberfest when…