I sit in a room of nearly 100 women assembled at my church for a dinner gathering. I try to engage in the conversation at my table as I pick at my meal, but I am distracted by the knowledge that soon a video featuring part of my story will play. At each of these gatherings, a woman’s testimony serves as prelude to the speaker. Tonight, it’s my turn.
I had recorded my story two weeks earlier; yet now, moments before it will be shown, I feel tension pulling me into a tight knot. I recall Brené Brown’s words: “Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” Yes, it’s a courageous thing to truthfully tell your story to yourself . To share your story with 100 other people feels like pure madness.
So, here I sit, feeling quite mad, as dinner concludes and time for the video comes…and goes. “Hmm,” I think. “That’s weird. Maybe she’s going to work it into her talk later?”
The tension grows as I continue to anticipate the feeling of exposure that will hit me when my face projects onto the large screen up front. Instead, forty minutes pass, the speaker concludes, and the night ends.
I quickly excuse myself and make my way to the car. The tightness in my chest gives way to a feeling of unraveling. I’m not sure how to articulate my muddled thoughts or their accompanying emotions. However, the sentences forming in my head aren’t good or kind…toward the event’s organizers or toward myself.
I suspect and eventually understand that some kind of oversight led to the omission of my video, but it doesn’t diminish the shock or shame I feel in my body.
I have been hijacked. I have prepared for a moment of transparency and vulnerability, and I just got rejected.
Have you ever been hijacked? You go into a situation expecting one thing, and suddenly you experience diminishment, embarrassment, frustration, rejection, regret, anger, or shame. Before you know it, negative thoughts and emotions take you hostage.
It can happen in the most unexpected moments and in a myriad of ways: an unkind comment on social media, an icy shoulder from my teenage son, lack of attunement from my husband, an unwelcome spotlight during a staff meeting, exclusion by friends…I’ve been hijacked by all of them. In the aftermath, I can entertain dark, dangerous, and damaging ideas and let them drag me down.
I recently heard Ian Morgan Cron discuss a process of cultivating self awareness called “SNAP.” This simple practice might have rescued me during my recent hijacking. Cron explained:
Stop: Before my thoughts run wild or my emotions hijack me, pause and take several deep breaths. I know from my yoga practice that mindful breathing grounds me in the present moment and changes my physical and emotional response to stress. If only I had remembered to breathe! By the time I left the gathering, my heart was racing (along with my negative thoughts).
Notice: What am I thinking, feeling, or doing in the moment? Am I showing myself compassion? If I had observed, I would have noticed that going into the evening I felt vulnerable. I was afraid that I would either be exposed, judged, or rejected. When the video wasn’t shown, it confirmed my fear.
Ask: What am I believing right now? Are these beliefs true? How would my life change if I let go of these beliefs?“I’m too much; my story is too messy; I am not wanted”—all of these thoughts swirled in my head as I drove home. Were they true? Of course not, but they sure felt like it.
Pivot: Make a different, more helpful choice that lines up with the truth. Here’s another way to explain the “pivot”: “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Eventually renouncing the lies allowed me to receive mercy, extend forgiveness, and live in truth.
After a hijacking, the temptation is to choose safety in the future, which means not showing up, not standing out, and not speaking up. It’s here—in this choice—that so much depends. Will I allow the enemy wearing the hijacker’s mask to hold me hostage? Or will I risk? Will I offer? Will I brave on?
My name is Susan Tucker, and this is my story…
Susan Tucker spends her days mothering her two teenage sons, teaching middle school English, and savoring rare moments of quiet and solitude. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her sons and her husband of 23 years. Susan finds life in a beautiful story, an authentic conversation, worship music, and ultimately, in Jesus, the giver of all good gifts.