Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mixed Messages

"Life in Lubbock, Texas taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love."
-- Butch Hancock

I read this quote yesterday.  Butch Hancock writes songs.  Lots of songs.  I don't know many of them, but I did a little research on Butch and found out he staged one of the longest running concerts of original music ever held.  I want to check out some of his music.  Because, from the sound of this quote, Butch understands.

I laughed when I read this quote the first time.  And I've chuckled when I think about it as I go about my day.  But the words have also made me think.  Deeply.  I'm thinking about the many mixed messages we send to those around us - to our children, our spouse, our boss, our friends, our enemies.  And I'm thinking about the results of those mixed messages. 

Sometimes the messages overtly contradict one another.  Sometimes the meanings are much more subtle, a difference in word and action.  Sometimes, they are so subtle, we even fool ourselves.

I'm a master at mixed messages.  I say a lot of stuff.  True stuff.  But if you look at my life, you might get the completely opposite idea from the message you hear coming from my mouth.  The disparity, when I see it, either gives me whiplash or makes me feel like a fraud. 

Some of the messages appear simple.  "I don't care what we do for dinner."  And when I say something so innocuous, I may even believe it.  But if what we DO for dinner doesn't suit me, then pretty quickly I'm proved guilty of mixed messages.  My irritation belies the fact that yes, indeed, I did care.

Some of the messages carry much more weight in many facets of my life.   I want my daughters to be able to explore their limitless possibilities, but I restrict their participation in some event because of my own fear.

The confusion transcends the personal realm.  I send mixed messages.  My family sends mixed messages, my community sends mixed messages, my church sends mixed messages, my government sends mixed messages.  It's easy for me to parse apart the mixed messages coming from those powerful groups.  Often I point an accusatory finger.  I rail about the mixed messages I see and hear and notice from somewhere else.  But how often do I take a hard look at myself and the mixed messages I send?

When I hear mixed messages coming from somewhere, especially repeatedly, the effect those words have on me causes me to be cynical.  I stop believing anything that person or entity says.  If I'm being offered such mixed messages, obviously the message giver either doesn't have a clue or practices intentional deception.  And that gives me pause.  Because, if I turn off the message giver when I receive those mixed messages, I have to wonder what reaction I create in someone who hears a mixed message from me.

Ronna is talking about Revealing What Is today over at Renegade Conversations.  Sometimes (always?) that's hard.  It's especially hard for me when I'm playing a tape of mixed messages about myself in my head.  I play mixed messages about who I am, what I want, where I stand, why I do the things I do, how I live my life, and when I'm going to make a change.  And just like when I hear mixed messages out there in the world, those disconnects in the messages I'm feeding myself make me distrustful.  I don't know what to believe.

I want to stop the mixed messages.  I want to be clear with myself.  Admit where and who I am, whether I like that place or person or not.  Because it's much easier to change something when I see what needs changing clearly instead of muddying the water with contradictory noise.  I want to be clear with my husband.  I want to be clear with (and for) my daughters.  I want them to be able to trust the messages they receive from me.  To believe me when I tell them I believe in them with all my heart. 

The mixed messages fly all around us in the world.  I SAY I want to effect change, but I am often too afraid to look myself in the eye and change what needs to be changed.  Until I stop sending mixed messages, how can I expect clarity from anywhere or anyone else?

What are the mixed messages you send?  What would be different without those messages?


  1. Thanks for your mention of me here, Renae. And here's what I believe: we get confused by the mixed messages that swirl external of us. They convolute the clarity that exists within but that we've either stopped listening to or stopped trusting. I'm pretty certain that if we could silence all the external messages, the one that matters the most would sound out like crystal. So much easier said than done AND such important, ongoing work. The work, journey, and gift of life, really. 'Glad to be in it with you.

  2. An old writer said, "Purity of heart is to will one thing." Getting to that "one thing" is, for me, the Big Challenge. We are, indeed, bombarded by mixed messages constantly However,I bombard myself from within. If only I have the courage to attempt to hear the mixed messages within my own head and heart, to silence the chattering long enough to hear the quiet whisper of my soul's yearnings, to listen to the conflicting messages, no matter how disruptive and disturbing. Paying attention to my own mixed messages taht arise from within me may be is the beginning of a way out of the many traps of the mixed messages. To own what is most authentic in myself requires that I listen to mySelf, and that is sometimes the hardest challenge of all. Your post has prompted deep questions for me, and I appreciate your bringing this to my awareness. Awareness is, after all, the beginning of change, and so thank you! I love, love, love the quote. Having lived in West Texas earlier in my life, I get that quote.....but, that mindset is not limited to WT. Love your post. JM