We Can See it in Your Eyes

Posted on October 20, 2010


Theresa is a friend that I have had the privilege of hanging out with several times.  Her words come carefully, her smile easily, and her gentleness and thoughtfulness regarding issues of justice are evident to all.  We’ve talked about Boston, food, and music, but one of my favorite conversations with her actually occurred when I got to hear one of her childhood memories.  It was about an idea I had heard about before- inner vows- but one that I didn’t fully understand.  It was a foreign concept, that a person could make an “I will never-” or “I will always-” assertion, completely subconsciously, that would actually affect their behavior for years.

Theresa’s came when she was only in middle school:

In middle school I was often the target of bullies – “mean girls” making snide comments. My defense was to try to act like I didn’t even see or hear them. One day one of these mean girls was harassing me, and I was trying to ignore her. Then she said, “You act like you don’t care that we pick on you. But we know you care. We can see it in your eyes.”

That comment left me feeling defenseless and vulnerable, and I immediately vowed to myself that I would never forget what she had said.

As a result of the feeling of vulnerability that bullying middle-schoolers gave her, Theresa made an inner vow to never forget what that bully had said.  She would never forget that her vulnerability showed through her eyes, and she would strive to hide it from that day forward.  And she did.  She built up walls of protection and became a reserved person.  Whenever she felt emotionally vulnerable, that vow (I will never forget) brought up the lie (I’m defenseless) and she reacted by trying to hide. The only problem was that the vow she made that ended up shaping her character was based on a lie.

God whispers to Theresa, You are from God, little child, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

It was more than a decade later that Theresa remembered that story for the first time, and was shocked to trace the implications of the vow through her life.

Earlier this year while on a weekend retreat I remembered that mean girl, and realized that I still needed to forgive her. It was only after forgiving her that I realized that I had believed this lie and that I had taken this vow. I immediately felt an enormous amount of freedom to let go of all of it. Now, whenever I feel emotionally vulnerable, I can remind myself that God is my defender, that most people aren’t trying to hurt me, and that I can let the past fade away.

Thank you, Theresa, for sharing your story with all of us.  Readers, let Theresa’s story inspire us to think about vows that are shaping our lives. 

I will never be like my father.

Next time someone abandons me, I will be ready.

I will never be as unhappy as my sister.

I will prove him wrong.

I can’t tell you what yours are, if any. You might not even be able to remember them yourself.  Spend some time asking God if there are any inner vows that have been driving your will.  

It is time to forgive those who have hurt us so that they no longer have any place in our minds and hearts.

“Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.””

-Isaiah 1:18-

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

-Mark 11:25-

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

-Proverbs 23:7-

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