Turning the Cape Inside Out

When did I ask for it?

When did I say to the world, “Please challenge me!”

When did I begin to take every word spoken to me as a challenge?

I used to think that resilience was found in marching up any of life’s metaphorical hills and shouting in the face of any and all challengers (even at the hill itself) and saying – GET OUTA MY WAY – THIS IS MINE -I’VE GOT THIS COVERED!!!  But the trick was – I’m a nice person, so I didn’t really shout- I just stood there glaring at it all until it decided to go away – a passive aggressive version if you will.

It works pretty well – until a friend tells you you’re an intimidating person. Until a family member tells you you don’t listen.

???? Really? Me? How????

But I’m so nice.

But I’m defending the defenseless against bureaucratic nonsense.

But I’m just trying to right wrongs and make sure that people don’t see the nitpicky things as the important ones.

I don’t yell at people. (At least not outside of my imagination or unless they yelled at me or threatened me first.)

I don’t tell people that aren’t my students what to do. (At least not out loud.)

I don’t drop names. (Unless I’m letting you know to watch out for someone I’ve decided is demented or evil.)


I think I’m beginning to see something. Maybe, as Joyce Meyer puts it, there is some stinkin’ thinkin’ going on in my mind.

Could it be that my thoughts reflect attitudes that are just slightly (and perhaps importantly) off point and off purpose?

Could the following thoughts be in my way?

  • When I work for something- other people should think it is as important as I do and should therefore give me credit for my efforts, my thoughts, my unspoken outlook.
  • When someone challenges me in an area of my expertise- they are obviously seeking to understand something that they are clueless about and must need an explanation of why what I do is right.
  • When someone doesn’t listen to my explanation- they are obviously either mentally incapable of understanding the simple logic I used or they are an emotional terrorist sent to torment me.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Sometimes we see ourselves as Superwoman (or man) and imagine our cape billowing out behind us covering and protecting all those we have chosen to protect.

Do we see the cape smacking others in the face as we leap out in front of them? Do we see that those others have valuable contributions that could actually aid our cause if only we would share the task at hand?

Do we relish the sound of the cape snapping in the breeze stirred up by our own momentum so much that we ignore the small voices coming out from under it? Do we tell our rescuee to “stay calm ma’am” while ignoring the fact that she’s telling us about an invisible force field we are about to slam into?

The problem with thinking of ourselves as superheros with battles to fight against injustice – is that we are human heros -and every hero has his fatal flaw- we are no exception.

Not everyone who seems to stand in our path is a challenger. Sometimes they are messengers. Sometimes they are mentors. (Anyone else picturing Hermes and Athena?)

Messengers don’t always bring good news. We need to listen anyway.

Mentors don’t always pat us on the back and congratulate our fine efforts. We need to follow anyway.

All year, I’ve had a messenger – so obviously outside of the battle that I didn’t hear the relationship between what was said and any situation, that I ignored his voice (not really ignored, because we had the coversation, but didn’t apply it to anything outside of the conversation). One of my students (that loves Marvel comics – NOT DC), has told me he can’t stand Superman. Really? Who doesn’t love Superman – beautiful man that he is, reversing time itself to rescue his obviously flawed and imperfect love interest from death- what’s not to love?

My student’s answer:

He’s too powerful. His weakness isn’t internal, but external (Kryptonite). It makes him uninteresting, boring.

Wow! Our flaws are what make us interesting.

Now it doesn’t matter that I’ve taught about fatal flaws in epic heros for years – because I didn’t realize I thought of myself as a hero. It took someone saying – I admire you, but you are an intimidating person. It took my dear love telling me – you are better than what you think of yourself- AND telling me – you think too much of yourself. (A contradiction I could not understand for a long long time. But I have finally realized – I am thinking of myself unrealistically in a lot of ways.

So, here are a few realizations for myself:

I’m not a one-woman rescue squad for every student I encounter.

I’m not above needing to improve my domestic effectiveness.

I’m not impervious to needing help.

I’m not creating a perfect image when I insist that the problems are outside of me – I’m creating a boring one.

A boring person isn’t someone with no ideas – it’s someone who won’t let others share the load.

So, overall – there’s  a mountain that I thought was outside of me, but it wasn’t – it was inside. So my eyes focusing on all the problems around me could never be effective. It isn’t in me to perfect what I see. Because I’m not so perfect. The flaws make me better, more interesting, more human. Acknowledging that allows me to look at things from the right side. I’m not Superwoman – I’m not the help that others need. Help is on the outside – found in my savior. My submission to him is the only super thing I can do, and I can’t even do that without the help of the Holy Spirit. So that leaves nothing. What a relief to not have to wear the cape.

As Edna Mode says: