How Sweet it Isn’t

It happened once again, that all-too-familiar conversation I had with a friend of mine who had found herself in a complex situation. She had let someone take advantage of her good nature and she didn’t know how to dig out of the hole in which she had found herself.  She had tried to have a conversation with the offending person, tried to right the wrong, but to no avail.

So, she called me. After listening to her issue and offering some suggestions on how to fix the problem, she thanked me for my time and said, “I just wish I was more like you. You’re just so tough.”

People started calling me “Sweet Tilestough” way back in junior high School.  I wasn’t tough in the strong sense, just tough in the “I don’t take any guff” kind of sense. I’ve always wondered where that tough exterior, that no-nonsense type of personality comes from. Like most behavior traits, I assumed it was born out of my family structure.  Growing up with three brothers and no sisters, I was kind of on my own to either stand up and be counted, or sulk back and be belittled.  I feel like I chose sulking more often than standing, but maybe my perception was a little off.

I loved debate and persuasive speaking. I enjoyed putting together (and winning) arguments of any kind. My high school teachers encouraged me to become a lawyer. At my wedding rehearsal dinner, the advice my brothers gave to my future husband (in front of everyone) was, “Don’t wrong her. It won’t go well for you.”

I was the girl in high school who other girls would elect to stand up for a friend who was being bullied. I was the girl who was coaxed by her friends to tell a teacher how unfair his grading was. I was the one my siblings would elect to ask Mom or Dad permission to do something they knew we weren’t allowed to do.

Tough? I don’t know if that’s the right word, but I’ve never much liked it as a descriptor.

To be honest, I’d rather be sweet.

Sweet is defined as: having the pleasant taste characteristic of sugar or honey; not salty, sour, or bitter.

When people call a Christian sweet, it usually means they reek of God’s goodness, that they embody the graciousness of Christ. They hug. Their eyes sparkle. Goodness spills out of them like water from a gushing hose. I know these women. I love being around these women. I wish I could be more like these women. They give without reservation. They encourage without judgment. They love unconditionally and unreservedly. They always have an encouraging word and apply an appropriate Scripture passage to the situation.

Sweet.

I should be sweet. But I’m not.

I wish I was the person people called when they need some encouragement rather than the person they call when they need some courage. I’d rather be the person that someone asks to hold their hand through a trial rather than the person that they call to walk ahead of them and push aside their tormentors in a battle.

And while I appreciate being the rescuer…while I love being out doing battle for my friends, sometimes in the quiet of the night, I whisper to myself, “I wish I was sweet.”

What kind of word would you put in the blank?

I wish I was more _________________.

I wish I were more like ________________.

I wish I could do _________________ better.

It’s so tempting to wish away the strengths God has given us in favor of the strengths we see in others. But God knew what He was doing with each one of us, right from the start.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body  
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!     
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,     
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.     
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Psalm 139:13-16

Maybe personality traits are part of the knitting-together. Perhaps a desire for a change in temperament is to speak against what God has created and recorded for each one of us. I love how author Sheri Rose Shepherd imagines God reflecting on His created beings:

I love what I have created. I am delighted in you! You never need to pretend to be something other than who I made you to be. I gave my life for you so you could live free to be yourself. Never again doubt who you are, why you are here, and how much you are loved.

I’m not sweet. But God is willing to work within my limitations. After all, He made me limited so that I could find completion in Him.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

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