I have to admit I’ve been struggling with whether or not to publish a post like this after everything that’s gone on over the last few weeks. When emotions run high, good judgement doesn’t exactly follow, and I promised myself a long time ago that this place would never turn into a platform for angry rants or attacking others. That being said, the struggles we go through have value, and if you can relate to any of what follows then the risk of putting this out there is worth it.
Here’s a curious thought. There are times in my life I have no idea how to respond to what’s going on, let alone how to deal with it. You’d think maybe as a minister this wouldn’t be the case, but it’s true. There are times in my life when I don’t have a clue. It’s going on three weeks now since this whole blow up over my hair, and I’m still…angry. I guess I thought I’d be past it by now, but I’m not. Every time I look in the mirror the anger’s there, just below the surface. I reached out through social media looking for support, or at least to know that I’m not the only one down here in the South who’s ever gone through something like this, and what I got instead were people, who I assume were well-meaning, that insisted my wife’s family had done me a favour by throwing me out of the house until I got it cut. In their eyes, I needed to grow up and “get a man’s haircut.” I didn’t have the heart to tell them that this is the very cultural box type of mentality that I’ve been taking a stand against for months now. I don’t want to be angry. I mean, I don’t want to be that guy who nobody wants to be around because he’s miserable all the time, but I can’t help it. I’m angry.
My wife got her hair done this past weekend, and I had some errands to run so I dropped her off. She goes to the same lady who does mine, so I went in to visit for a bit. Truth be told, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Before my wife’s turn, there was this little old lady getting done, and when she was finished and saw herself in the mirror, she exclaimed, “That looks like me!” I heard that, and I thought, “That’s it. That’s why I’m mad.” When you get your hair done, whether you just get a buzzcut or whether it’s long and permed and coloured or whatever the case may be, you choose how you want to look. Sure you may change it to fit the policy at your job, and you may not get much say in that, but at the end of the day it’s your choice to make. I’m mad because that’s a choice I no longer get to make, at least for the time that we continue to live with my wife’s family. It’s a choice which, for that time at least, is now made for me. (And I didn’t get any say in that decision, either. It was just made for me, too.)
I’ve written elsewhere as to why I think our appearance is so important a part of who we are. (See here for my thoughts in detail.) It’s how we show we are to the world. Now that things have changed, whenever I look in the mirror I don’t see me (unlike the lady in the salon). What I see instead is someone else’s version of me. The end result for me is that a piece of my personality is gone. Part of who I am isn’t welcome anymore, and I can’t do anything about it.
The question, then, is what the hell do I do now? There are any number of Biblical passages on forgiving others, and why it’s so important to do so, which makes forgiveness seem like a great place to start. (The story of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35 is one that has come to mind a lot recently.) Truth be told, I haven’t been able to bring myself to forgive my wife’s family yet. Maybe, once we’re out on our own and away from the people involved in this again, maybe then, when I’ve got the freedom to choose again how I want to look and when that part of my personality can come back, maybe then I’ll be able to forgive and let go of all this. I’ve had people give me compliments on how I look now that my hair is shorter, and I try to be gracious and take them in the spirit they’re given. Truth is, I don’t feel whole, and those compliments only serve to reinforce that for me. Maybe when I’m whole again, maybe then I’ll be able to forgive. For now I’ll just make the most of a bad situation, and try and figure out how to respond to all of this in a healthy way.
Being unable to forgive may not be the most Christian way to deal with all of this, but in the end I’m human, too. That may seem like rather a flimsy excuse, but there’s a reality here (as there is to many painful aspects of our lives) that I’ll miss if I try to gloss it over with a veneer of Christian piety. Jesus meets us in these moments, in the midst of the pain and the anger, and I don’t want to miss that. This whole thing has given me a newfound empathy for a group of people I’m only just getting to know, and I wouldn’t want to miss that, either.
Oh I’ll get there, to a place where I can forgive and move on, maybe, once things change. For now, though, this is my new reality, and I’ll take it one day at a time. And if you’re going through something similar, I’d say take it one day at a time, too. It will take time to get through whatever anger or pain you’re feeling, but don’t rush yourself. You’ll get through it when you’re ready. And remember, you’re not alone. Jesus is right there with you, and I’m here, too. We’ll get through it together.