The expression just kind of came out of my mouth one day. A friend asked me, “How’s coaching going?” and out it slipped. The expression fit though, this thing I was taking part in. People would come to me because they felt stuck or wanted a career move or a relationship shift, but again and again the same burden reared its ugly head.
As we worked through the sessions, this thing would pop up like a mouse peeking out of a hole in the wall. “Hi again. It’s me. Your evangelical baggage.” You could substitute in “Catholic baggage” or “Baptist baggage” or “name your religious upbringing baggage.” But it has been my experience that there is none quite so worthy of the title than evangelical baggage.
Obviously there are a lot of ways evangelical baggage affects people. Hundreds, thousands of ways actually. But the part that I am most passionate about opening up (or blowing up) as a coach is the baggage that suffocates who we really are. The part that keeps us people-pleasingly nice or prevents us from owning our skills and talents.
At first I saw the evangelical baggage as a subtle niceness, a people-pleasing “Do you like me? Please like me!” sort of thing. And I would say to myself, “That’s ok, Jane. They just want people to like them. It’s ok. Move on.”
But then it became a bit more obvious. It was like the mouse was running around the edges of the living room now. “I’m here! I’m here!” And I saw their dwindled confidence, their unwillingness or inability to own what they are good at. This baggage was dragging them down.
Somewhere, some how, we end up hiding who God made us in the noble name of ‘humility.’ We carry around this heavy burden of being good, nice, humble all the time. Or fake humble? This is one I see a lot. Somewhere we have mixed up arrogance with owning what we are good at. Admitting you are a great writer is not arrogant. Putting others down and constantly saying you are the best writer is arrogance.
We often candy coat our word choice to be more appropriate or likeable (there goes that people-pleasing thing again). As blogger Micah J. Murray said at the Faith and Culture Conference this year “I don’t want to be a Christian writer, if it means writing from the heart and then hitting backspace until it feels safe.”
God is in the midst of all our emotions (even the ones that don’t feel safe), and I think he wants us to really own them. The Bible is full of people expressing all sort of emotions! Anger, love, lament, joy – the list goes on. He calls us to love people, not please them. God calls us to be kind, not inauthentic. And he calls us to be image bearers – to reflect his creativity. What’s creative about just being fake nice all the time?
Now, we have to get one thing clear when I talk about blowing up evangelical baggage. I’m not trying to just rip on “evangelicals” – trust me, that is not my bag(gage). It is an expression to encompass all the false beliefs we have acquired over the years. It is all that stuff we have learned in church that we need to unlearn now. We don’t need to unlearn it all but there is some damaging teaching out there. I have hope that there will be less to blow up in twenty years than there is now. I have hope in the church. But we need to unpack our baggage and live our lives fully in Christ because when we do that, we experience freedom like none other!
Therefore as a coach, I have no choice but to blow up that baggage! We break down the beliefs, the lies, and all that is dragging us down. We do it gently and with lots of encouragement. But we do it and so much becomes available when we do.
To that end, I am opening up some space on my blog for others to share what is available to them now that they have blown up some baggage. These people are not my clients; they are my blogging friends (or as my friends Natalie and Cara say, “Online friends are real friends, yo”), and all these bloggers are excited to share what happened to them when their evangelical baggage was blown up. Every week (for a while…get comfy) we’ll hear from a different person. I trust you’ll enjoy their words.
Please leave a comment and tell us what you think, or share a victory you have had blowing up your baggage!