And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. John 8:32


Friday, April 3, 2009

The Dark Side of Camaraderie

When I was a teenager, my sister and I came up with a brilliant diet idea. We would eat whatever we wanted, but every three days we’d give up a whole food category and not eat it for the rest of the diet. We figured we wouldn’t have to monitor how much we eat, because there wouldn’t be much to eat anyway after a few weeks.

Now here’s the really brilliant part of our plan—every time we gave up a new category (that would be every three days), we would go out the night before and eat one last treat from that category.

Now you might be thinking “That doesn’t seem very smart to give up basic food groups,” and you would be right, of course, except for the fact that we weren’t giving up basic food groups.

No, what we were giving up was basic dessert groups: cakes—cookies—pastries—pies . . . (did I mention what a fun diet it was?).

Well, as you might have guessed, it wasn’t a very successful one. If I remember right, we lasted about two weeks—right up until the day we gave up our last food group: ice cream. By that time we could see the diet was going to get boring awfully fast, and we ended it. I’m afraid we didn’t lose much weight (actually I think we gained), but we did have a lot of fun.

There’s a sense of camaraderie that comes with eating together, isn’t there? In fact, I’ve always wondered if that’s not why God designed our bodies to need food—so it would be an opportunity for us to gather together in fellowship around a meal, enjoying the food and each other.

But there’s also a dark side to camaraderie—if what we’re enjoying together isn’t good for us, we might actually be hurting each other, all in the name of fun.

I had a woman write me this week, wondering if I would write a blog about the social pressures of eating. She was worried about attending the family Easter gathering and how she would be able to handle the day without eating too much. Her mom is an emotional eater and many of her family members are also. Listen to what she has to say:

My mom doesn't pressure me to eat but I automatically (auto-pilot) do . . . I’ll hear several family members complain about being fat, but food is their life, so they will go back and forth all afternoon and eat when they are stuffed. It's not overt pressure—it’s subtle, like it’s expected. If you don't eat like that, you are kind of an outcast.

Have you ever experienced this before—the pressure to eat because everyone around you is eating? Sometimes it comes from within—our desire to please or be part of the crowd—but often it comes from the outside. We’ve probably all experienced others saying things like this: “Oh, come on, one cookie won’t hurt—don’t be such a killjoy,” or “You’re no fun anymore—I liked you better the old way.”

These remarks not only hurt, they make it hard to maintain our fragile self-control. After all, we want to eat—we know it would be fun to sit there and eat whatever we want to eat—and even more than that, we want to fit in. It’s hard being the odd man out.

So what do we do? How do you handle situations like these? All I can suggest is that you prepare for them beforehand so you have the mind of Christ before you walk into the situation.

Remember that eating is more than just eating for the emotional eater. It’s a spiritual issue. God doesn’t want us to be controlled by anything but Him—and we’re much happier when He’s the one controlling us.

Eating the way God wants us to eat in a situation like this is an act of dying to self—dying to the desire to have others think well of us, dying to the desire to fit in, and dying to the desire to have fun with them and eat as much as we want.

Easter itself reminds us of how we're to live our lives. Listen to Hebrews 12:2: Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus was the ultimate example of dying to self.

The focus of His life was to do the Father’s will, and He wants that to be the focus of our lives as well. Just as Jesus couldn’t do that without dying to self, we can’t either. So often in life we have to make a choice: Should I indulge my desires, or should I do the Father’s will? Should I do what others want me to do (so I don’t get condemned, so I don’t hurt their feelings, so I fit in, etc.), or should I do the Father’s will?

It still takes me by surprise sometimes when God’s Word reminds me that I have to suffer for His sake—because the culture tells me I shouldn’t have to suffer.

When the world is crying out, “What’s wrong with eating?? Have another lemon bar!” (that’s what it was saying to me yesterday), it doesn’t seem necessary to die to self. That’s why we need to spend so much time in the Word—so we remember the truth and have the power to act on it.

If you’re going into a difficult situation this Easter, it would be helpful to spend some time praying and thinking over these things before you go to your gathering. Another way you can prepare is to go over the lies you believe about the food itself.

I wrote a blog about this last November called The Lies of Thanksgiving. You should be able to find it by looking over on the left of this blog at the labels and clicking on the holidays link (one of these days I will learn how to actually put links in this blog, but I’m not there yet!).

It will help you even more if you write down those lies on a piece of paper and write out your own truth before you look at what I wrote—you’ll internalize it much more if you’re the one doing the thinking.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful Resurrection Sunday—because He lives, we have the power to be set free from our strongholds. Let’s pray for each other as we navigate another week filled with temptation.

P.S. I’ll try to write another post before Easter about the lies you might believe in a situation where you’re feeling pressured to eat.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Yes, I am a people pleaser! I realize I have no boundaries when I am trying to fit in, get noticed, or desparately be liked. Whether that is eating with others to fit in, or just do and say what everyone else is doing and saying. God doesn't even enter the equation when I am in that mode. But now I have something to think about after reading this. It sure opened my eyes to some things in my life that aren't working. Thanks for that! I love your blogs and your book by the way. Kathy