My stomach started twisting in knots as soon as I saw the name come up on my cell phone.
Do I have to answer it? I could just let it go to voicemail, I reasoned with myself. But I had already ignored one phone call from Julia earlier today. I better answer this one. I inhaled deeply and forced myself to speak cheerfully.
“Hello, Julia! How are you?”
“Fine, thanks. Did you get the message I left this morning?” Her tone was brisk, almost accusatory. The implied question hung sharply in the air – “Why didn’t you respond immediately?” I immediately felt defensive. Why does this woman intimidate me so?
Everything about Julia, from her perfectly styled hair to her shiny high heels, added to her image of perfect control. At our first meeting several weeks ago to discuss my transition into her current position, I found myself intimidated by her. Though I had a master’s degree and much more experience in the field than she did, Julia’s patronizing and critical tone made me feel inadequate and unqualified. I kept telling myself that THIS time I was going to stand up to her attacks and not let her walk all over me. Yet time after time I caved in to her demands, meekly nodding my head in agreement, just to avoid a confrontation.
A Perspective Change
When I asked a trusted godly woman for counsel and prayer regarding the situation, her response was immediate and unequivocal. “It sounds like she’s intimidated of you.”
“ME? She’s intimidated of ME?” The thought had never occurred to me. “But I’m intimidated of HER!”
“She knows you have more training and background in this area than she does, and that you’re fully capable of this job,” my friend said gently. “She feels threatened by you.”
Suddenly my whole perspective changed. It’s true – Julia WAS feeling threatened, and this was her way of showing that she was in control. I asked the Father to give me His eyes to see Julia with compassion.
“Her opinion doesn’t define me,” I reminded myself as I drove to my meeting with Julia that afternoon. “My heavenly Father defines me.” And as I walked into her office, rather than the usual feeling of dread, I felt surrounded by a strange sense of quiet peace.
Julia still tried to make me feel like I was five years old and incompetent, but this time it didn’t bother me as much as before. For the first time I had the boldness to gently express my opinions and defend myself in the face of her criticism. Once I stopped letting Julia define me and looked to Jesus to define me, I was filled with a new confidence. I know who I am in Him, and others won’t intimidate me anymore!
“Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16 (NRSV)