Saturday, May 21, 2011

Take Me The Way I Am

A popular song that is one of my favorites right now is Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am"
If you were falling, then I would catch you.
You need a light, I'd find a match.

Cause I love the way you say good morning.
And you take me the way I am.

If you are chilly, here take my sweater.
Your head is aching, I'll make it better.

Cause I love the way you call me baby.
And you take me the way I am.

I'd buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair.
Sew on patches to all you tear.

Cause I love you more than I could ever promise.
And you take me the way I am.
You take me the way I am.
You take me the way I am.

The words strike a chord with me:  The concept of love being two people who take each other the way they are.  We want acceptance in spite of, or better yet because of, our faults.

The quirky line in that song, expressing the strangeness of modern romance:  "I'd buy you Rogaine . . . " shows that while we want to be accepted for what we are, part of the reason is that we actually aren't all that happy with how we are.  We don't truly accept ourselves The Way We Are.  We want to be different; and better (with more hair, at the very least).  We want someone who will love us, even when we don't quite like just how we are.  The only reason we would long for someone to accept us as we are, with all our faults, is that we recognize that we are far from perfect, and think we are perhaps difficult to love.

If I felt that being the way I am is perfectly OK, I would feel no need for acceptance of my faults.  It is because I myself do not accept myself the way I am that I wish for someone else who would accept those things about me that I don't like but have been unable to change.

Introspective people spend a lot of time looking at their own faults and trying to change them, almost always unsuccessfully. Changing personality or character is almost impossible.  We are what we are.  We may struggle with trying to improve in various ways, but most of us make little progress at it.  I lost a lot of weight, but the factors in my personality that caused me to gain weight in the first place are still there, struggling to put it back on.  I may have changed my body, but changing my mind and behavior is something else entirely.  I don't think I am now an inherently thin person.  I still am what I was - what I am.  Perhaps a "recovering" heavy person.

But if someone else could accept and love me with my faults, then it could make me feel better about those faults.  If they can accept those faults, then maybe so should I?  Which might relieve some of the guilt over my lack of success at self-improvement.

Can we change?  Is change impossible, or just very, very difficult?  Little changes are perhaps only a little difficult, but big changes may be so difficult as to be, for practical purposes, impossible.  Changing enough to be able to accept ourselves the way we are may be too much to ask.

Much of what makes Christianity both appealing, and unappealing, is its promise of acceptance, but also its promise to change us, and its demand that we change.  We long to be changed, because changing ourselves, well, we've tried.  Lord knows we've tried.  Must we change ourselves in order to be changed?  Lord, take me the way I am.  Will you really?  Because, if I need to have more faith, well, I have what I have.  If I need to be a better person to be saved, then well, I am what I am.  Is God alone allowed to refer to Himself by that title (I am what I am)?  Does God take us the way we are?  Did God in fact make us the way we are?  Does God demand that we change? Yes, Yes, and Yes.  The Bible seems conflicted about that.  Dear Lord, take me the way I am. And then change me.  But please don't ask me to change myself, because, well, that's just the way I am.  (At this point, please avoid digressing into theology, or argument about faith vs works).

Yet even as we wish for acceptance, we may try to hide the very things we wish could be accepted.  We want to be accepted for what we are but we dare not totally reveal it, because we don't accept it, and we don't think it can be accepted by anyone else either.  I won't tell you about those flaws I wish you could accept, because I think you would judge them, not accept them.  But I wish you could magically perceive throught the eyes of love the unlovable person I know I am, and yet love me and love my faults.

Often, I would like to say to someone:  "I do accept you the way you are, I just wish you could believe that and not be so defensive all the time!"  They don't think they are lovable that way, even if I do love them.  And I don't quite totally believe they could accept all of the flaws in me either, so I can understand.

Could it be that we are not merely the person we are, but also, to some degree, we are the person we wish we were?  The fact that we have higher ideals than we are actually able to live up to, doesn't just having the ideals count for a great deal?  Perhaps I'm not really just "the way I am".  Perhaps, maybe, I am partly the ideals I admire, whether or not I manage to live that way.  I hope so.  Because I'm afraid you just have to take me the way I am.


  1. Odd...because we are always considering ourselves a "work in progress." But, at the same time "I yam what I yam." A paradox...

    Maybe the part about they way I am is the permanent parts....our personalities, our talents, our ingrained likes and dislikes. And maybe the part about who we want to be or are trying to be, is as you said, still who we are right now, but the ideal of us the way we are plus where we want to be.

  2. I still hate it when I recognize a personality trait in myself that has agravated someone one I care about... I feel guilty even though I only recognized the problem after-the-fact. I hope I am still a work in progress. My sister Ruth comments about my Mom that as we age our mental Filters decrease and we're much more prone to say and do things we would have considered unacceptable when we were younger... So watch out world, I just had a birthday yesterday!