Permanently Black & Blue: Searching for Approval in Relationships
“I tried to do handstands for you,
I tried to do headstands for you,
Every time I fell on you, yeah every time I fell.
I tried to do handstands for you,
But every time I fell for you.
I’m permanently black and blue, permanently blue for you.”
This is a perfect description of my life in relationships. I have the tendency to perform for maximum impressions. I can remember as a child, I would run up to my folks and try to get their attention with some kind of physical maneuver, all the time shouting, “watch me!” None of the tricks were overly impressive or even unique, but I thought it would garner their compliments. Really, all I wanted was to know that my mom and dad were looking at me and approving. A simple, “Good job, Josh!” was gold in my childhood mind. But, when my antics went un-noticed or my charade disregarded…my heart was broken.
My sole desire was to be noticed. Simply acknowledged. I know I wasn’t alone, because when I’d sit in class and the teacher would call the roll, all the other kids waited like me, for their name to be called and instantly their hand would shoot into the air and each of us would shout, “PRESENT!” Present. That’s the word I would use to explain what I wanted people to notice. Josh Hackworth is present and hopefully important.
I guess I took that desire into my adolescence, teen years and adult life. My attire and attitude was always eccentric and counterculture. It was my way to grab attention. Good or bad, attention didn’t bother me as long as someone was aware of my presence. Like the song, I’d do hand or headstands, fall all over myself, and wind up permanently bruised just to be noticed. I didn’t care how skinned or bloody my knees and elbows were, I’d continue to buffet my body for friendship, courtship, or even a passing glance. Little did I know, I would come to identify myself by those bruises. My black and blue became the banner under which I’d quantify all of my relationships. If I hadn’t fallen all over myself to get your attention or receive friendship, then I’d failed. And I truly believed that it had worked. I could retrace relationships in which I’d abused myself to be accepted, and those people believed that I was good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, they liked me. Therefore, the functional lie of performance relationship had great merit for me.
Unfortunately, I’ve never left this childish appeal for attention behind, this need for approval in relationships. I still use it in my relationship with my wife, my bosses, my team, my kids, and God. Even though I’ve been redeemed by the work of Christ, I still stand on my head and yell, “watch what I can do!” I try extremely hard to please those with whom I have a relationship. I get bruises from serving, getting up early, staying late, overextending, overcompensating, overpromising, and taking responsibility for things I haven’t even done, just hoping that someone will notice that I’m present. I use my permanent black and blue status to showcase that I’m worthy of love and compliments, and my bruises are badges of honor to prove to anyone who might spare a glance that I tried my hardest. And, do you know what? I get irritated when my antics are ignored.
I cry out.
“Doesn’t anyone know that I’m here?”
“Doesn’t anyone see what I’m doing?”
“Doesn’t anyone care that I’m beating the heck out of myself for acceptance?”
But, what I’m really crying is:
“God, do you know that I’m here?”
“God, do you see what I’m doing?”
“God, do you care that I’m beating the heck out of myself for your acceptance?”
It was a scary to realize that I have been trying to gain approval from God by using the same self-abusive methods I’ve used with people. I come before him with my bruised knees from praying, paper cuts on my fingers from reading the Bible, wounded ego from ministering to unappreciative people, and chastising myself for all of my sins. My functional lie became my lifeline to God.
But when I discovered the truth, my heart was set free. “He was wounded for my transgressions, He was bruised for my iniquities; the chastisement of my peace was upon Him, and by His stripes I am healed.” Jesus was eternally bruised for me. His wounds will never heal. He understands what it is like to be permanently black and blue for someone who totally ignores Him, because that’s what I have done. And, where my bruises just bring more destruction, His HEAL! Permanently. In His embrace my wounds are treated, and I find rest from my charade to prove to God that I’m worth His love.
God sees my handstands, and delights in me. He smiles! When I fall, He gently scoops up my battered body and weeps over my bruises. The Father says to me, “No more bruises. You don’t need to do anything for my love and attention. You have always had it, and nothing you or anyone on this earth can do will ever separate you from my love.” Of course, my desire to be noticed will never go away, but now in this revelation, this desire becomes a simple reminder to run to Him, into his arms, so He can protect and shield me from the bruises of relationships in this world.
When I fall, He gently scoops up my battered body and weeps over my bruises. The Father says to me, “No more bruises. You don’t need to do anything for my love and attention. You have always had it, and nothing you or anyone on this earth can do will ever separate you from my love.”
On the cross, Jesus took my pain, and became permanently black and blue for me. He declared, “Enough! It’s over! It Is Finished!” Now it is time for me to say the same, “Enough! It’s over! It is finished!” No more antics. No more charades. No more handstands. No more punishing myself or performing for love. He is permanently black and blue for me, and I’m going to pay attention to what He did.
So can you.
Say it with me, “Enough! It’s over! It is Finished!”
This is the truth, and I promise, the truth will set you free. Jesus did it all for you, and it’s done.