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I remember hanging up the phone and sobbing. It felt like someone had ripped out my soul, swallowed it, and then spit it out. I don’t remember the last time I cried with my entire body, but that night I did. The conversation I had with a dear friend quickly turned south and years of buried pain came to the surface. Between heated accusations and screams, we spoke words we would both come to regret. But it wasn’t just her words that smashed me that evening, it was the rules I had lived by my entire life that broke me.
I’ve spent most of my life abiding by self-governed rules — rules I implemented because my parents, church, or family praised me if I followed them or shamed me if I broke them. Rules like, Be good, be quiet, be pretty. Rules like, Don’t disappoint people, don’t be too emotional, don’t be too needy. I think we all have rules or “thou shalt not’s” in our lives. We live and die by these commandants we’ve written on our hearts. They are the laws that guide our choices, relationships, and careers. We are fixated on following them at any cost. These commandments of our hearts control all we do.
Number - Commandment - Life - Thou - Shalt
Perhaps the number one commandment that has governed my life has been this: thou shalt not make people mad. I must, must, must make people happy. I felt responsible for the emotional well-being of other people. I carried this commandment into every scenario, friendship, and social interaction. It burrowed inside my chest like blood keeping me alive. That night on the phone, I couldn’t control the emotions of my friend, and it killed me. I couldn’t make her happy or like me or be pleased with me. And that night my need to keep...
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