Growing up I never had a problem standing up for myself, or for friends. I was always that person that would make the room get awkward when I would announce that I actually like the person that everyone was talking about. I can still chuckle thinking about it. But then, time happened. Broken relationships happened. Tyrant bosses happened. And finally, marriage and kids happened. I don’t know at exactly which step I lost my nerve, my boldness, my assertiveness but I lost it.
Having my children was the last straw. I lost all my nerve with that. I said yes to whoever wanted to visit us and the new baby. I listened while other people told me how I should care for the baby, when I really needed support and encouragement for the way I was doing it. I held back my anger when my mom gave my first child her first bath, without even telling us. It has been almost 4 years since then and many other things have happened where I have kept my mouth shut, plastered a smile on my face, and held my anger in.
The problem is that these instances bother me deeply and affect me emotionally and physically. I realized that I can’t handle these situations and still be the me that God wants me to be. He has a plan for me and he doesn’t want all these situations to control and debilitate me. But how do I stop these situations? I have forgotten how to stand up for myself and even though I want to I just don’t know how. And that’s not all either. I don’t want to ruin my relationships. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to damage my integrity and above all, I want to honor God in all things that I do.
I thought about going to a therapist. A neutral third party to help me sort out all this craziness. I have had great success in therapy in the past so I believe in its power. I have a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and have seen clients come in one door broken and out the other strong and empowered. But the bottom line is that therapy is expensive and there is a higher power. So I decided to go to the greatest counselor there is: Jesus.
I began searching the pages of the gospel to see what I could find about how Jesus handled these types of situations. Situations where he needed to stick up for himself. Surprisingly or not, there are quite a few stories that can teach you how to stand up for yourself. I am going to choose a story found in Luke 4: 14-30 called Jesus Rejected at Nazareth.
I’ll try to give you the short of the story:
Jesus was in the power of the Spirit, working miracles, teaching in synagogues, and receiving the praise of the people. He returned to his hometown Nazareth. On the Sabbath he read a scripture found in Isaiah. Then sat down and essentially claimed to be the messiah. Verse 22 says “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked.” Seems like a nice enough response from the people. But Jesus knew what was in their hearts and thoughts. (How Jesus knows the heart and mind.)
He knew they were unbelieving of him, only seeing him as the child he was, and he was not going to stay quiet and let them live in their unbelief. He needed to stand up for himself, for who he was, for what his mission was, and for who sent him.
He accused them of their unbelief. He asked them, ‘don’t you want to question me?’ He told stories from the Old Testament of how God used gentiles because of the unbelief of the Jews. Making the point that God will send him to the gentiles if they do not accept him.
Their response: fury. They drove him out of the town and to a cliff, to throw him off it. They wanted to kill him when he stood up for himself! But, because it was not him time to die, “he walked right through the crowd.”
So how do you apply this to your life in learning how to stand up for yourself?
First, we don’t need to respond to empty words or false motives. Jesus straight up ignored their “speaking well of him” because he knew they were liars! So instead, he responded to what was in their thoughts and minds.
Although we cannot read minds or hearts, we can discern when someone isn’t genuine. You can hear it in their tone, feel it in their gaze, and sense it in their body language. So respond to that:
“You are acting annoyed with me.”
“You sound angry.”
“You have been very short with me lately.”
Second, Jesus called the people out for being the unbelievers that they were. So there you go, yell at your boss and tell off your co-worker. Ok, do NOT do it like this! But you can call them out.
“I feel used.”
“I feel taken for granted.”
“I feel unappreciated.”
Third, Jesus “walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” This was the last way Jesus stood up for himself. You, too, may need to hold your head high, stand firm, and go on your way. Don’t hide from the person or the situation, don’t get pulled into the drama, instead walk right by them. Say you have to go to an appointment or make a phone call, and then leave. If you get cornered by them later, say hello and be friendly. A wise person once told me that you can be friendly towards someone without be friends with them. And it is true. You have stood up for yourself and now you can go on your way.
When someone asks in passing why you aren’t volunteering at church. Laugh and walk by saying, “We’ll have to catch up sometime.”
When a group member says they can’t do their part say, “Yes I had a hard time with my part too.” Then, excuse yourself and leave the conversation.
When you hear a rumor circling. Walk straight through the crowd and go on your way.
None of these things are going to be easy to do. It probably wasn’t as easy as it looked for Jesus either, to get up in front of everyone he grew up with and accuse them of their wicked thoughts. (Which, by the way, he turned out to be right as noted by the fact that they tried to throw him off a cliff.) But he did stood up for himself because when you don’t take action, you give permission. He could not give them permission to live the rest of their days thinking he was a lunatic. He was giving them a chance to change, to accept him into their hearts.
That is what you are doing when you know how to stand up for yourself. You are giving people a chance to change and see you differently. To treat you as you deserve to be treated. Only when this happens can they can get the best of you back. Just like Jesus stood up for who he was, what his mission was, and who sent him, you too can stand up for yourself.
The story doesn’t end when you stand up for yourself. It is just beginning. Take a look at this:
You may also enjoy How to say no.