Today I flipped on the t.v. just in time to catch a glance of the latest scene in what seems to be Britney Spears’ gradual emotional meltdown. At first, my reaction was the same as it’s always been each time I’m bombarded with tales of her escapades–disgust mixed with pity. But this time, my reaction shifted. Somehow, seeing yet another story about her crazy decisions and poor choices splashed across the t.v. screen stirred something new inside me. Instead of pointing a finger of judgment at her and then going on with my day, I hesitated. For the first time in all these months that we’ve heard about her downward spiraling life, her actions resounded with something deep inside me. No, I have not shaved my head or partied with an endles string of men, but there is a desperation to her behavior that I can recognize in my own heart. Suddenly, her actions do not seem so strange to me.
You see, I got to thinking about what this poor girl has gone through, and it helped me to make sense of the decisions she has subsequently made. She married a man and had children with him, only to be hounded by the press the entire length of their marriage. Then, under allegations of his unfaithfulness, the marriage crumbles, only increasing the scrutiny of the media. Every tiny wrong turn that she makes is blown up and criticized by everyone under the sun. So, at the very young age of 25, she is trying to cope with her divorce and take care of her kids, all while the paparazzi is plaguing her every moment of every day. The girl is in a pressure cooker.
Now the reason I am writing this is not because I’m trying to start a movement to band together in support of Britney Spears, though I do think we should have more sympahty for people in her position. Rather than jumping so quickly to judge, we should first move to love them and pray for them. But the reason I bring this up is that I see her behavior play out, to a lesser degree, in countless women around me, including myself. Britney Spears’ lifestyle is merely an extreme example, but a good one nevertheless, of what happens when a woman allows her self-esteem to be stripped away, and then desperately seeks to restore it by running to the world.
Just like Britney, I myself have been in a number of bad relationships that have left me feeling unlovable, unattractive, stupid, and foolish. And it’s not all the guys’ fault–I allowed myself to feel this way. But as a result of these relationships, I have run to various ungodly outlets to soothe my feelings of inadequacy. I’ve sought it in purely physical relationships with guys, in flirting with guys, in trying to look cute and put together all the time, in looking thin, and even through my involvement at church. I did all these things to feel better about myself, to feel that I was a good person, an attractive person, therefore numbing those feelings of low self-worth.
And in addition to all these things, I have put my heart on lock-down. I have done everything in my power to protect myself from any sort of pain, which often means trusting people less, becoming more sarcastic so that no one can one-up me, and being more selfish with my time. I’m living as though I need to look out for myself first and foremost, because nobody else will. In the same way, you see girls get drunk on the weekends and hook up with an endles string of random guys, but they’re not doing it simply because they have loose morals–they’re doing it because it’s easier to stay emotionally unattached that way. It’s easier to not know the guy you’re kissing, because it’s less likely you’ll develop feelings for him. And it’s easier to hook up with someone in a drunken haze because then you don’t remember enough to become attached to them. Christians don’t always behave quite as explicitly, but we are just as guilty of living for ourselves. The result of living in self-protection is living selfishly. I think we are all guilty of that at some time or another.
All of that to say, if you have been hurt by someone or if you suffer from low self-esteem and you are running toward everything you can think of except God, then you and Britney Spears are in the same company. Just because you run to your friends or your church does not mean you are running to God–whining with your friends about how you hate being single and how much guys stink is not so different from going out with your friends and getting trashed. They are all coping mechanisms that supplant God. Yes, running to God can be the painful thing to do in the short-run because it forces you to address the feable crutches that hold up yourself esteem. But, running toward God instead of finding quick fixes or hunkering down so no one can hurt you, will actually make you stronger. He will prune you, and it wil hurt, but that is what it will take to deliver us from the downward spiral of self-medicating lifestyles. After all, we are not so different from Britney Spears.