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walking on broken glass

December 16, 2008

“I’m tired of holding back so that I won’t outshine you.”

i was flipping through channels yesterday morning and paused long enough on one to hear a lady speak these words to her friend.

think about that statement for a second.

i had a couple thoughts go through my head on it. my first reaction was…you shouldn’t hold back. is that truly in your friends best interests? aren’t we suppose to give everything our everything? then again, is that a selfish statement to make? is it selfish for the friend to hold back the other?

i’m kind of resting now on the feeling that we cater too much. i don’t mean to sound harsh, but it’s true. i don’t know the context in which this statement was said – it can be looked at many different ways. what if the friend is attempting to achieve something she is not qualified to do, but the one speaking is qualified? i don’t want to hurt so and so’s feelings, so i’ll just not do such and such. but is that really beneficial? to either party?

“I’m tired of holding back so that I won’t outshine you.”

your thoughts?

47 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2008 9:42 am

    i hear pride and arrogance. why does she think the full/real her will shine any brighter than her friend?

  2. December 16, 2008 9:48 am

    I found myself going through this with a relationship I had had for a long time. It was always my part to ask them about their lives, cheer them up when they were down, give my time and an ear to them, but nothing in return. At one point I asked myself, “when are you going to stop sacrificing you” so that they’ll still be your friend. When are you going to nurture youself instead of them?

    Finally I decided to take the reigns (that I has always let them hold entirely) and decide what direction the relationship would go it. Sadly, for us, that meant the the relationship had to end. Being a friend does not mean you have to censor everything you say or walk on eggshells around that person. It means a level of respect and a whole lot of concern for the other. A true friend wouldn’t ask us to hold back. They’d want to see us shine.

  3. December 16, 2008 10:04 am

    i think some of us were meant to play second chair. and thats not a bad thing. that is the supporting role. without that, the 1st seems empty, devoid of energy, incomplete. but there are some who are not content with their role as 2nd chair and therefor become a burden on the one who now feels they need to hold back in order to pacify the envious one.

    ive been in both places. there are areas in my life i feel i excel – but have held back in order to not offend or hurt someone else. there are areas in my life that i wish i were better at, but i am currently in 2nd chair position. it isnt easy. but i am learning to support and rejoice with the ones around me playing 1st chair. AND i am studying them, learning from them, its beneficial. so…if they were holding back…they would be holding me back as well.

  4. December 16, 2008 10:25 am

    This is the tricky situation I’m in now at my job. Last year I accepted a position that I am overqualified for, because I needed a JOB. My manager is the exact same age as me, but she has less relevant work experience for the work we do. I have learned some things from her and enjoy her as a person, but at times I get frustrated holding back so I don’t step out of my position’s boundaries. I’ve taken it as a lesson in humility and teachability – two things I’ve needed to learn. However, there are times when it’s just so hard to sit back and watch her make choices I would not make for our department and our company.

    Still, I don’t think I’d ever say out loud what the woman on TV said to her friend!

  5. December 16, 2008 10:34 am

    I think, as women, we do hold back our talents and opinions when we think the person we are with won’t support us if we know we can do things perhaps they can not. Women rivalry is common in the work place. We are always trying to watch our backs for the women who can do more than us instead of embracing our own strengths without reservation. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just be happy with who we are all and be happy when someone else has a talent we do not?

  6. December 16, 2008 10:48 am

    I think it depends on the context of the shining.

    Generally though I would say: Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Romans 12:9-10 MSG

    Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10 NIV

    Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10 ESV

  7. December 16, 2008 11:02 am

    i agree. practice in playing 2nd fiddle. its a good lesson in humility. i also believe that we should live out, to the fullest, who God has created us to be. there will always be someone who doesnt like it and is envious. but we can live out our role with integrity and respect toward others too…and we should! and in doing so…does that make us responsible for the negative reaction of another who we might have “outshined”…at least in their eyes?

  8. December 16, 2008 11:36 am

    I think this woman was speakin out of fear 🙂 My favorite quote

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. “

  9. December 16, 2008 11:48 am

    That statement reminds me of me and my life. Not that I’m the one that holds back on purpose but I let people hold me back and outshine me. Thats kind of whats expected of me. What I mean is that I’m expected to hold back and not outshine anyone.

  10. December 16, 2008 12:06 pm

    I love what you said about being in 2nd chair and studying those in 1st, how you would be cheated if they didn’t shine. What wisdom and humility.

    I have stepped down and held back so that others could have a place I could ‘win’. Hasn’t everyone done that at some point in life? It came down to the importance of the thing I would win vs. the importance of the relationship.

  11. December 16, 2008 12:07 pm

    i had a friend in high school one day up and end our friendship because i was “holding her back.” it really bothered me at the time, but soon discovered who i was outside of that relationship and i was all the better for it. whether this relates to your post, i don’t know – but it made me think of it.

  12. December 16, 2008 12:39 pm

    so…if they were holding back…they would be holding me back as well.

    That is a very good point! I have been on both sides. I few years ago, I had a “friend” that took offense to my (or anyone’s) success, so I learned to down play my life and make it seem like a drag so I wouldn’t get the brunt of her competitive streak. I got tired of it and started being real. I wasn’t going to make my life look pathetic just because she was insecure – that’s holding her back.

  13. December 16, 2008 12:57 pm

    right selena! it also brings up something else in my head. and this applies in this context of what we’re discussing here. we are to be peace makers. a peace keeper implies, to me, that one is unwilling to step up and do what is right. what is expected. yes, it may be easier to let things slide in order to avoid an altercation or hurt feelings…but it isnt always the right thing to do. i have learned some of the most valuable lessons by being stretched, challenged and called out by people who werent interested in keeping peace by sweeping potential growth under the carpet.

    hmmm. i guess i have a strong opinion on this.


  14. December 16, 2008 1:09 pm

    i’ve definitely been the first AND second chair in some things (and probably even 3rd or 4th!). recently, as far as performing goes, i’ve been 1st chair a lot. until this season’s show. i wasn’t 1st chair. heck, i wasn’t even 2nd chair. i was a no-name. a no-name! i went from top of the list, straight to the bottom. and although i kicked and fought against it at first, now that it’s all over i see i learned a lot from it. in fact, if i could, i would do it over again the VERY same way. i needed to “practice playing 2nd (last) fiddle”. maybe i was becoming prideful. probably in part. maybe i needed it to see how important my career is to me…and how hard i should work for it. i don’t know if i can pin-point all the lessons, but i do know the lessons were many.

    i can agree with alece’s thoughts…it does seem arrogant…but only at first. if you look at it with the idea of first and second chair being different roles rather than better or worse in comparison to each other, then it’s easier to recognize how certain people were just made to shine brighter (not better, just brighter) than others. a lighthouse needs one type of bulb, while a reading lamp needs a completely different one. obviously we know which one is the brighter one, but when each is serving the purpose for which it was created, it is beneficial to everyone. if instead, the lighthouse bulb were trying to shine as a reading lamp, it would be held back, by not being allowed to shine to its fullest potential. similarly, if the reading lamp were trying to fill a lighthouse, it would never be seen to shine as brightly as it actually does.

    does that even make sense in the slightest?

  15. December 16, 2008 1:36 pm

    I love your descriptions Joy!

  16. December 16, 2008 1:50 pm

    sounds like part of drew’s post on mandy’s blog…haha

  17. December 16, 2008 2:30 pm

    I tend to agree with you, Tam. I mean, if we’re not authentic with our closest friends, with whom are we?

  18. December 16, 2008 2:42 pm

    joy – exactly!!! makes perfect sense! well said!

  19. December 16, 2008 2:59 pm

    it falls under being fake if someone holds back to not hurt someone can be done tackfully without the gloating..but it is also thinking pretty much on ones self to think they can out shine someone else…now I am talking in circles…soooo please….out shine me 🙂

  20. December 16, 2008 3:08 pm

    ok…i have to address the elephant in the room.

    here goes…

    is it just me or does anyone else hear “Annie Lennox” singing “…walkin’ on, walkin’ on broken gla-ha-has”?



  21. December 16, 2008 3:12 pm

    yes, iman.

    i love Lennox!!!! and the girl can still sing!!

  22. December 16, 2008 3:46 pm

    I named a cat after lovely Annie Lennox.

  23. December 16, 2008 4:39 pm

    Sweet dreams are made of these
    who am I to disagree….Everybody is looking for something.. 🙂

  24. December 16, 2008 5:56 pm

    I looked at this post earlier and decided to respond later. I teach SS class – a group of 50 people – I think I do great. I teach for 3 months, they rotate teachers each quarter. No one wants to follow me – I work hard at it – and make it very interesting – I Give it my best. I have thought about just doing the basic – but decided against that. You see, like the song says; “Give of your best to the Master.” If you follow papa, you had better give it your best – no holding back.

  25. December 16, 2008 10:10 pm

    Everyone has gifts so how really can you outshine anyone if we are all shining, just in different ways. I think when people say that maybe the friend is depressed or they are just making excuses, either way it isn’t a healthy way to live.

  26. December 16, 2008 10:37 pm

    thanks hislife!

  27. TheNorEaster permalink
    December 17, 2008 12:14 am

    I have to agree with Alece. That statement is astoundingly arrogant.

    And if someone ever said that to me, I would simply respond, “Nobody shines when the lights are off.”

    On a bad day, I might even throw in a “Get over yourself, kid.”

    And on a really bad day, I might add, “If the world doesn’t revolve around you, the sun certainly doesn’t.”

    But, as TheNorEaster, I don’t hold back so that I don’t “outshine” people. I would hope that I have let God discipline this child of His so that I DO hold back and not let the greatest storms destroy my friendships.

    And that is something an arrogant statement–the original–could easily do. In which case, the person isn’t “shining” at all. The world has a tremendous tendency to confuse the light and the dark.

    (Of course, I know this because I have been so guilty of it.)

    But, like He said, “The eye is the lamp of the body…”

  28. TheNorEaster permalink
    December 17, 2008 12:36 am

    (Note to self: Do NOT check blogs BEFORE work!!!)

    It just hit me: “I’m tired of holding back so I don’t outshine you” also sounds an awful like she is blaming someone else for not being where she wants to be. As if it’s someone else’s fault that she is not “shining.”

    And blame is usually just a variation on the theme of arrogance.

    It is better to take responsibility than it is to blame.

  29. December 17, 2008 4:45 am

    I would also add Jesus’ own words as encouragement too:

    You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)

    The whole point of the “Salt & Light” concept that Jesus was using as an example in this story is about usefulness. Not necessarily about our personal spiritual condition as some read it to say. Basically, he’s saying that light is light. You don’t use light for anything other than light. It’s useful for lighting up things. Yeah, pretty simplistic I know…but Jesus had a way of saying some pretty profound SIMPLE things.

    Bottom line: as a Believer I can’t stop being light. Light is light. And light shines. We know the light is actually Jesus in us, but the point being that when people see us shine, it’s about bringing glory to God.

    In the context of this particular exchange, I would say that a “friend” who wants you to stop “shining” so bright has a few things going on:

    1) They see something in you that they don’t have, that makes them uncomfortable, and they don’t know how to get it so they ask you to tone it down.
    2) They see something in you that they’ve always wanted and unintentionally are letting it come between you in the form of jealousy so they ask you to tone it down.
    3) They’re extremely self-centered and they think the world revolves around them, so any attention that doesn’t go directly to them is a threat to their “me” shrine.
    4) They are normal and doing fine, but you’re a big jerk, and are running all over them. Whether it’s intentional or not, they ask you to tone it down, because they’re genuinely interested in preserving the friendship and that’s the only way they know to approach you.

    The “you” in these scenarios aren’t directed at you, tam, just the general you (as in us, me, we, etc.).


  30. December 17, 2008 4:46 am

    Oh wait, I just realized I had the exchange backwards.

    Oh well, maybe someone will see this and be encouraged.

  31. December 17, 2008 5:04 am

    This post reminds me of a race back in high school. I was running the 2 mile. My friend Steve was running with me. He was the miler and had just won that event. His job was to stay with the top five and try to score. My job was to win. I cramped up after 1 mile and began limp-running/jogging. Steve caught up and then matched pace with me a half step behind me. The opponents caught up on the last lap. Our classmates, knowing I was hurt, yelled, “Steve, stop holding back!” It would have been much better if Steve was already over the finish line when our opponents had caught up to me. The cheering would have been so much different. I forgave him and he promised never to do that again.

  32. December 17, 2008 6:15 am

    I’ve been thinking about that statement since I saw it on your blog yesterday morning…. I think, for some (women especially), friendships are more important than success.

    And I’m not so sure this is a bad motivator. Of course, the end result of suppressing your own unique gifts in order to maintain relationships, well, that’s not the right path… But the motive? not so bad.

    I think loneliness is far worse than uselessness.

  33. December 17, 2008 8:03 am

    The first thing i thought when i read that line and these comments…?

    “hasn’t Anyone seen the movie ‘Beaches’ “???

    Bette Midler never ‘Held Back’ and totally outshone Barbra Hershey when they first met as Kids. Despite being more well to do than the ‘low class’ but extroverted and talented Midler, and becoming a succesful lawyer, Hershey admits to her friend later in life she is jealous of her talent and success.

    It is only later still, when Hershey is dying in Hospital Midler sings to her ‘Did you ever know that you’re my hero’? (Wind beneath my Wings).

    Neither of these girls ever ‘held back’ their individual ‘gifts’ and their friendship was a ‘lifelong one’ – in fact it extended over two generations – but it definitely went through some very ‘rough’ patches/

    Of course that was all totally ‘Hollywood’ and real life often does not work out the way we see in the movies.

    I know from personal experience (not mine so much directly – somone i was quite close to (female) that if she had shined as brightly as she was capable she may have achieved ‘more’, but her schooldays and teenage years would have been very lonely ones indeed. She chose popularity and friendship over intelligence and being an outcast for it.

    I could easily see her one day saying just that to those she made friends of who could NEVER be as academically gifted as she was.

    It’s very easy to say ‘you should never hold back’ it’s quite another to live with people hating you just for being better than them at what you do.

    Something Jesus (and perhaps Christians) probably know quite a bit about?

    Some people feel ‘compelled’ to trade achievement for friends.

    To some ( not me ) having some such ‘friends’ is better than none.

    I have known it personally from the other side too… ever try living with someone who does EVERYTHING better than you do ? It can be quite soul destroying to fall in love with such a person.


  34. December 17, 2008 8:32 am

    i don’t hold anything back. i outshine ALL my friends.

    wait… i don’t have any friends.

    i guess i outshine myself, then.

  35. TheNorEaster permalink
    December 17, 2008 1:02 pm

    “I think loneliness is far worse than uselessness.”

    What if God makes you so useful you end up lonely?

  36. December 17, 2008 11:37 pm

    Wow, it has been really enlightening reading all of these comments. My initial response is the same as you, Tam. Alece’s comment smacked me in the face (not in a bad way, Alece!), Selena hit on a good point there, and Joy’s word picture was fantastic.

    Me … I have to say …. that comment hit me right in the gut (why I popped over to comment – sorry Tam! I’ve got 13 back posts of yours …). And I can see where Alece is coming from. Me …

    For some reason, to most people it sounds like arrogance if I honestly describe who God has made me. The strengths, anyway. I am extremely analytical. I have a mind like a trap and can remember and memorize a great amount of things: thus I have a natural capacity to learn and teach. Because of these things, and being raised on the Word, my aptitude for teaching and debate on Scripture usually exceeds what most people have. This … is apparently massively intimidating to most people. And even my ‘normal’ intelligence (not pertaining to the Word) tends to intimidate ‘everyday’ people (at work and so forth). And you know … it’s very hard because on one hand I want to live up to the capacity that God has given me. I want to value the talents that He placed inside of me. But on the other hand, it is very hard being surrounded by people who feel threatened by me. Because by and large, they do. They don’t feel smart (insecurity from school and parents and so forth) and so the presence of someone who is (in their mind) smart, feels like heat on a burn. You know when you burn yourself … it hurts … and when the pain finally goes away, you can forget that it’s there. But it’s still not healed. And if that burn comes in contact with heat (hot air, hot water, direct sunlight) it feels like it’s burning all over again. It’s kind of like that effect. The presence of a ‘smart’ person just reminds them of how ‘stupid’ they are (I’m speaking from their perception, of course – I don’t think this). So they respond with … distance, pain, attack, sharp comments, self-deprecating comments. When you get enough of them, you learn that people are not really interested in you. They’re interested in themselves. And they’re interested in what makes them feel good. Or perhaps just not feel so much pain. So … in the interests of not causing them pain – of not making them feel like they’re ‘little’ or ‘worthless’ (because you know they’re not and you wouldn’t want them feeling that way) or perhaps in the interests of making sure you aren’t displaying any sort of pride … you tone it down. You don’t try to learn so much. You don’t try to communicate so well. You hold back. Or I do.

    Most people are not content to simply be who they were made to be. Star differs from star in glory. The stars do not compete. They simply are. Animals do not compete (between species … I know there’s competition within), plants do not compete. Out of all God’s creation we compete. Why is that? Because out of all God’s creation we have the capacity for pride. This is what sets itself up against God. This is sin. So it is pride in anyone to not let another be who they are, and not encourage them to shine just the way they were made. Any competition based on insecurity or ego is founded in this thing – pride. We are not supposed to compete. We are supposed to be a Body. No competition. Working together.

    Do I have pride? Yes. (And I would be ignorant, blind, and stupid if I said I didn’t.) But do I have as much as many people think I do? No. And I can say that honestly. I don’t have a bad self-image. I don’t think of myself as better or worse than anyone around me. I try to let people shine just for who they are, and I love when people do the same back for me.

    Love ya, Tam. 🙂

  37. TheNorEaster permalink
    December 18, 2008 1:51 am

    Annie: Always knew you were good with chocolate. But how you doing with that there peanut butter…? 😉

  38. December 18, 2008 5:55 am

    “aren’t we suppose to give everything our everything?”

    Didn’t we cover this about five days ago?

    SupposeD to – that competitive streak/old age memory loss is proving to be a toughie to ‘crack’.

    Work with me on this one Tam – not against me – you KNOW it makes sense. 🙂

    Give it everything you’ve got (left) and you CAN win this thing! I have Faith in you.


  39. December 18, 2008 6:05 am

    Annie – i was with you all the way to: animals don’t compete, plants don’t compete – in fact i could even put up a reasonable argument for stars and galaxies competing (you’ve heard of black holes, right?) I think what you meant was – those things have no ego-driven competition, jealousy, envy, pride, lack of strength or self worth to drive or inhibit their completely natural, and in all other cases fairly well ‘balanced’, competition – you become too successful competing – eliminating variety/complementarity in nature – you die out! Balance restored.


  40. December 18, 2008 8:49 pm

    *Nor – ah … I love your imagery … when I understand it. Peanut butter??

    *Blove – Yes, you are right in what you thought I meant. I know there is ‘competition’ of a sort … for the sake of survival … but that competition is on a completely different level than the one I’m talking about that humans engage in. Humans compete out of pride in an effort to ‘be’ better. Animals ‘compete’ simply to eat and survive. It has nothing to do with identity. The stronger animal doesn’t think it’s better just because it can kill and eat the weaker animal. It just does that because that’s where his next meal is coming from. Humans compete because they want to seem better, look better, be better than the one standing next to them. This is a pride motive.

    And I should addendum what I said. Because … no matter how well I try to say it, it still comes off sounding arrogant. I will say that there is a lot to be said for knowing how to communicate with those who are very different from myself, and that is a knowledge I very much want to learn. I do think there’s a lot of humility to learn along the way. I want to be able to communicate well with anyone I need to, without offending people. So … I do try. Very hard. To be able to not offend them with my words – even if I wouldn’t think it was offensive if someone was saying it to me. Anyway. That’s all. I think. 🙂

  41. December 18, 2008 8:56 pm

    annie – i dont think you sounded arrogant whatsoever. not at all. ive told you, probably, a hundred times how much i appreciate the way in which you share your wisdom and knowledge. i cant wait to see what youre gonna say when ive noticed youve commented. you speak with confidence, not arrogance. and you speak with gentleness and respect. i respect you highly! so thank you. very much!

  42. December 19, 2008 12:03 am

    Tam’s quite good like that! 😉

    Sadly, as experience shows, not everyone else is – in fact, hardly a majority are (good at understanding a difference between intelligence and arrogance)

    And for the rest of what you said Annie – i’m fine tuned to your same wavelength!

    What is the point of being good at collecting and evaluating knowledge if you keep it all to yourself?

    It is a very fine line between stating something with authority and sounding arrogant for humans.

    It is essential to respect someone else’s feelings when we communicate with them – but that respect works both ways, or should.


  43. December 19, 2008 8:10 am

    “It is a very fine line between stating something with authority and sounding arrogant for humans.

    It is essential to respect someone else’s feelings when we communicate with them.”

    I couldn’t agree more!

    (Annie, this comment has nothing to do with your comments here 🙂 I understood excatly what you were expressing without picking it and probing in to death.)

  44. December 19, 2008 3:07 pm

    *Tam – you blessed, blessed, blessed me with that comment. Thanks so much. “you speak with confidence, not arrogance. and you speak with gentleness and respect.” That meant SO much to me. I try so hard … and it is SO nice to hear that someone in this world sees me that way. I appreciate you!

    Thanks Blove and Selena!

  45. December 20, 2008 5:22 pm

    I’ve felt that my whole life in regards to my own mom. Yeah, I’m aware that sounds totally awful. But you’d have to know the whole story I guess. The moment I stopped doing just that, let’s just say that things didn’t go well. 🙂

  46. December 22, 2008 1:58 pm

    I think we (me) should always act with others best interests in mind or heart. With that being said…she probably should have kept it to herself…because if said person was acting with other persons best interest (and not her own) then I think she would have kept her mouth shut and worked to help friend achieve whatever goal she was working towards. Bla bla bla.

  47. December 22, 2008 1:58 pm

    p.s. I really hate petty crap like this…where woman tear each other down. I hate it even more when I do it.

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