Everyone Is Fighting a Battle
About the Guest
Lee Wolfe Blum remembers her youth and the powerful, damaging message, “you don’t matter.” Blum encourages women to be authentic in the midst of struggles.
Everyone Is Fighting a Battle
Bob: Is there anyone in your life—in your circle of influence—who’s struggling with something right now? Lee Wolfe Blum says, “Of course, there is!”
Lee: None of us have to look far to find them—they’re your next-door neighbor; they’re sitting in your church; they’re in your grocery store. The reality is that everyone is fighting a battle you don’t know about—everyone! And to think that we walk around, and we look at each other, and we get jealous of each other, when the reality is—we need to stop and say: “Hey, what’s going on with you? Tell me about your life.” Just stop and listen, and be a friend.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 11th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how we can help bring courage to people in our lives who are struggling to be brave. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I was just looking at the back of this book we’re going to be talking about, and I saw that our guest loves to help women find hope and healing from perfectionism and addictions.
Bob: And I thought, “We’ve probably got some listeners who could use a little help with both of those.”
Dennis: And it also talks about how to be brave.
Dennis: And how brave is the new beautiful. In fact, that’s the name of her book. Lee Wolfe Blum joins us on FamilyLife Today. Lee, welcome to the broadcast.
Lee: Thank you so much for having me.
Dennis: Lee is from Minnesota.
Bob: Yes; Edina, where I was born! Give me a fist bump on that. [Laughter] We are both cake-eaters; right?
Dennis: Hold on. You’ve now mentioned that three times before we came on the air, and now you’ve mentioned it again. It went past me the other three times. I kept wanting to stop you.
Bob: I think it’s—isn’t it a reference to “Let them eat cake?” It’s kind of where the upper-crust—
Bob: —you know, in Edina, you’re of royal blood—that’s basically what it is.
Lee: And they say Edina is: “Every Day I Need Attention.” [Laughter]
Bob: Oh! I didn’t know that! [Laughter]
Dennis: Oh! [Laughter] I like that!
Bob: I’m so sad you told that to Dennis!
Lee: I wasn’t born there, though. [Laughter]
Dennis: This explains everything! I want our listeners to write in about this and just tell me—
Dennis: “Is it a part of Bob’s DNA or not?”
Bob: Edina: Every Day I Need Attention. [Laughter] Okay; now, I need counseling. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, we’ve got one right here in the studio—
Bob: I know!
Dennis: —because Lee is a mental health practitioner. I think Bob’s in deeper trouble, though, than you can possible help! [Laughter]
She’s a speaker and author, and married to Chris since 1996—and has three—count them—three teenaged boys.
Dennis: There’s nothing quite as challenging as that; is there?
Lee: No! Thank God we have a girl dog. [Laughter] They are a challenge.
Bob: You got invited to speak at your church, and this was something that you were excited about. I mean, you had always kind of hoped that you would get an opportunity to speak; right?
Lee: Oh, you’re picking that story—okay; yes. [Laughter]
Bob: And you got the invitation. You were excited; and as you got to thinking about it, it became less exciting?
Dennis: Well, she was in the audience, listening to somebody else speak; wasn’t it?
Lee: Yes; actually, the story is: I was born the third child in a family that made us five. I grew up with this message that: “Tables weren’t made for five,” and “Roller coasters aren’t made for five.” So a message, very early on in my life, was, “You don’t matter.” Then the other piece was: “I was the accident.” It was this message, constantly through my life, of: “You don’t matter,” and “You’re an accident.”
I spent a great deal of my early childhood and young adulthood trying to figure out how to make myself matter. I did become a Christian in high school through Young Life—thank God—because I grew up in a non-Christian home.
Lee: That only enhanced my perfectionism of: “I’m just going to make myself perfect!” Making myself perfect and making myself matter—it led me into a life-threatening eating disorder. When I was in my early 20s, I had an eating disorder; and while I was in the hospital, many, many people said to me, “You will always have an eating disorder.” And I thought, “Isn’t that interesting?” And the other thing—and we can also talk about this later—they also said, “If you would just pray, you would be healed.” There was really this dissonance of: “How do I make sense of this?” and there was no other person I had met that had recovered from an eating disorder.
So, if we fast-forward, I did actually move into recovery in my early 20s. About ten years into recovery, I decided—crazy!—I don’t know why I decided this: “I’m going to write a book!” Now, nobody had ever said to me that I was a good writer. Nobody had ever said I should write a book, but I just really felt like I wanted to write a book.
I wanted to write a story that shows both, because God heals us—He does! You can recover, but nobody had shown me that when I was sick. I wanted to write that story. The book came out—my first book, Table in the Darkness: A Memoir. My church asked me to come and speak.
I thought I had arrived; right? I am thinking—and here it is—that same kind of message that I had grown up with: “I have to prove I matter. I have to prove my worth.” I thought: “I have arrived! This is it!”—right?—“These people are going to come up to me and talk to me, and they’re going to give me kudos.”
This other author came as well. She was a very, very popular author. She got up to speak, and I got up to speak; and, after, they said, “Both of the authors are going to be at the table for a book-signing.” I put on my lipstick—
Bob: Oh, I know where this is going! Dennis has had this happen to him too.
He has!—haven’t you?
Dennis: I’ve got a story you’ve got to hear. This story will really encourage you, but go ahead—finish yours. [Laughter]
Lee: Okay; so I put on my lipstick—you know, because I always put on my lipstick—and I stood there and just waited for all of these people—right?—to come and tell me how great my book was, and how much it helped them.
Dennis: Yes, I understand; I understand.
Lee: Not a single person came up to me.
Lee: None! They all walked to her. I mean, I could feel the wind as they were passing me by. [Laughter]
Lee: But it was such—as hard as it was, it was such a valuable lesson for me: “This is not who I am. I don’t matter because people say I matter. I matter because God calls me ‘the beloved.’” That, then, is also part of what propelled me to write the second book, Brave Is the New Beautiful.
Bob: So, do you want to hear about the time Dennis and Max Lucado spoke together?
Lee: Oh! Yes!
Dennis: Yes. [Laughter]
Bob: Do we need to say more?
Dennis: I gave this message, and it was really a good message on honoring your parents.
Dennis: That’s really the craving of the culture right now; right?
Bob: Nobody wants to hear that.
Dennis: And there was a book-signing afterwards. I sat down at the table, like you. It wasn’t that no one came by.
Bob: Did you put your lipstick on?
Dennis: I had—no; no lipstick! [Laughter] I had a family of five who came—one family; okay? So I signed a book for them; but meanwhile, I could see the line—
Dennis: —the line that formed that started at Max’s table, went downstairs—two floors—and out into the parking lot. Here’s my conclusion: “I was not that bad, and Max was not that good!” [Laughter]
Lee: “Somewhere in the middle!”
Dennis: Here’s the real story: Max Lucado has sold 100 million books.
Lee: Right; right.
Dennis: So it’s not a good comparison to get into—
Dennis: —what you went through or what I went did.
Bob: You’ve sold somewhat less than that yourself.
Dennis: Somewhat less than 100 million. [Laughter]
But here’s your point—your point is—you can’t get your measurements of who you are from the world.
Dennis: You’ve got to go to the Book—
Dennis: —find out who God is—and measure against who He is and what He’s called you to do; right?
Lee: Exactly; but in the moment, it hurts so badly!
Lee: I went home and cried for a good, long time. It hurt! And it was such a good—like it was God saying: “You know what? You’ve got to knock this off! You’ve been doing this your whole, entire life, Lee! You keep doing it; it’s not going to work for you!”
Dennis: It was a great lesson for me.
Dennis: What I ended up doing was getting at the end of Max’s line.
Lee: Right! [Laughter]
Bob: You got one of those books autographed!
Dennis: Yes; but you know, what you’re saying is really good here. I appreciate your authenticity.
There are lessons to be learned, even when things don’t turn out the way you hoped.
Lee: Right; right.
Bob: And think about wives and moms today. Think about young girls, who are growing up today—and this is not exclusively an issue that women face—but maybe, disproportionately, women are being introspective and wondering, “What does define me?” Maybe men are getting it from the workplace—I don’t know—but I meet a lot of women, who seem troubled by their sense of worth or value—wondering if they have any—because of what the culture is telling them or not telling them.
Dennis: —especially around beauty—
Dennis: —and just to remind folks: “Brave is the new beautiful.”
Dennis: You’re calling women, as well as men, to a character quality.
Dennis: That’s what you’re saying is beautiful.
Lee: And it’s not because I just wrote this sentence down and thought that this would be a good idea. It’s because I saw it with my own eyes.
After I wrote the first book, I thought: “Okay; that was it. It was a one-time deal.” But then, after the book came out, I—especially living in Edina—I was terrified of what these other women would think of me. I remember being at my kids’ school carnival, and walking around the hallways, looking at these women who looked perfect—like they looked like they had everything together! Even though, in my head, I know that’s not true, it looked to be so.
I thought: “When they read my book about my eating disorder, and about my depression, and about my cutting, and all these awful things about me and what I did, they are going to run from me! They are going to cancel playdates. They are going to whisper about me.” I even asked my husband: “Can we just move? Can we change our name?”—you know, like, “What am I doing?! Why am I doing this?”
And what I found was the exact opposite to be true. These women came out of the woodworks.
They came out, and they said—and this first book was published in 2013. They came to me and they said: “Thank you! Thank you!” And then, they said: “Me too,” “Thank you,”—maybe not—“Me too; I have an eating disorder,” or maybe not “Me too; I struggled with depression,” but “Me too; my marriage is struggling,” or “Me too; I have anxiety,” or “Me too; I feel like I can’t talk at a party.”
I started kind of wondering, like: “Why does everyone look like they have it together? —and yet, behind the scenes—
Lee: —because I work at a hospital, with patients who struggle with eating disorders and addictions. I know what’s behind the scenes here. Why are we not talking about this?!
Then I read the quote by C.S. Lewis—and for some reason, it was the first time I had ever read it—and it’s: “When one person says to another: ‘You too? I thought I was the only one!’ that is when true friendship begins.”
This book, actually, was supposed to be called Me Too—I had pitched it as Me Too.
Lee: That was why I wanted it to be about “Me too,” because I wanted to explore: “Why are we doing this, as women?! Why are we doing this to each other?” I feel alone; you feel alone. The suicide rate in the United States for women has risen to an all-time high in the last 30 years, and a lot of it is women. “What is happening to us, as women?”—I wanted to explore that, so I pitched it to a publisher. They liked the idea; they changed the title.
I interviewed hundreds of women. I’ll tell you what! I did not have to look far to find these women. None of us have to look far to find them—they’re your next-door neighbor; they’re sitting in your church; they’re in your grocery store. The reality is that everyone is fighting a battle you don’t know about—everyone! And to think that we walk around, and we look at each other, and we get jealous of each other, when the reality is—we need to stop and say: “Hey, what’s going on with you? Tell me about your life,”—
—just stop and listen, and be a friend.
Dennis: Lee, you titled your book, Brave Is the New Beautiful. Define that word, and then explain to women how they find bravery.
Lee: So one of the things that I found through interviewing these women was asking that question: “Tell me your story,”—just: “Tell me your story.” In it—as they would, and I was so honored! Honestly, there’s nothing more honorable than having someone sit with you and share their deepest hurts and their deepest pains—like, “Tell me your story.”
And then, as they would tell me their story: “You are so brave!”—right?—like: “That is so brave!”—you know, women who have been in abusive marriages; or another woman in the book who went through adoption and had to return the kids—I mean, really difficult stuff! Another woman—you know, plenty of stories of women who have lost children:
“How do you keep on going? How do you love God through that?” Women who have been in cults, and yet still love Jesus with all of their heart—how does that happen?—that is brave!
But then I would ask these women, “Do you think you’re brave?” Do you know what every single one of them said?—“No.” Not a single one said, “I think I’m brave,” which, then, is another piece of all this. Not only do we sit and look at each other—we get jealous of each other, and we do all this comparing—but then, when we are doing amazing things and really stepping out in bravery and courage, we don’t even think we’re brave. We demure, and we just kind of shrink back.
Through all of this, I also, you know—hearing these women’s stories—also helped me to be [braver]. So that’s really how you are brave—is when you are brave, and another woman sees you being brave, that helps her be brave.
But if we just hide behind our doors, and pretend like we have it all together, nothing’s going to change.
Bob: It’s almost like bravery is: “Look, I’m not perfect. I’ll admit that. I’ve got flaws just like everybody else, by the way.
Bob: “But I’m not going to try to hide them.
Bob: “And I have experienced grace, so I can be honest about my flaws.”
If you can’t, you need to learn how to do that; because that’s where bravery is—it’s standing up in a world that values perfection—
Bob: —that airbrushes everything / that gives us an unreal picture of what humanity is—to stand up and say: “You know what? I’m flawed at a deep level. I’ve had failures. I have things I’m ashamed of that are a part of my past. I’ve learned how to find grace for those things, and I can live in that today.”
That’s a brave person; isn’t it?
Lee: It is, but I think it gets a little tricky in the Christian culture sometimes—
Lee: —because we’re supposed to be kind; and we’re supposed to be nice, and all of these things. We sometimes get so much over here to: “I’m looking like I’m a good Christian.” Then we put on this mask, and we don’t want to talk about the tough stuff.
Dennis: Yes; right.
Lee: And actually, I learn a lot from my patients that I work with. I think I’ll always do the work that I do, because I learn so much from people who are in the trenches of really struggling. One patient said this to me one day, and I love it—is that: “Everyone wants to be perfect, but nobody wants to be around perfect.” That is so true! When I go to my girlfriend’s house, whose house is all tidy/put together—decorated beautifully—I feel uncomfortable.
Lee: I have this other girlfriend—that she—when we go to her house, it’s kind of messy—
—I feel so much more comfortable. I’m not saying: “Okay; everybody! Let’s go and be messy!” But what I am saying is—I’d much rather be around somebody who’s real and authentic than somebody who is trying so hard to look like they have it all together.
Bob: You talk about two women—in your book, you tell the story of two patients: Shannon and Jenny—
Bob: —who are both dealing with eating disorders; right?—
Bob: —but dealing with them very differently.
Lee: Yes; yes. One of the patients that you’re referring to is somebody who was bitten by a dog. Her primary focus in life—she was a flute player. Because she had been bitten by this dog, her face was then permanently scarred right around her lips. She lost her identity in a couple of things—in how she looked and in her flute playing.
She masked that by doing what she could control, which is a lot of eating disorders, of, you know—
—“If I could just look this certain way…” “If I could just be this certain size…”
You know, bravery is not about how skinny you can be, or how pretty you can be—it’s just not! You know, I’d rather be with a person who is just living life, and being authentic about it, than somebody who is—like I mentioned before—being perfect and trying to have it all.
God does not call us to that. I think we get it so confused, sometimes, as women. You know, He does not call us to be perfect. I think when we start doing that, we are acting like God. There is only one God!—
Lee: —and it’s not me! The minute I start thinking it’s me is when I’m messed up! The minute I’m like: “You know what? Thank God I have a Savior, because I am a hot mess!”—
Lee: —that is a good place to be! [Laughter]
Dennis: And sometimes I think, in the midst of our messes, when we’re asked the question if we’re brave—
Dennis: —the answer is, “I’ve never really done anything that was brave.”
Dennis: The reason we answer it that way is because we really don’t know the definition of what bravery is.
Dennis: I want to come back to that and say, “How would you define bravery?”
Lee: Well, first, you open your Bible—so I’m going to give you two definitions. One that I love/love in Psalm 27:14, which is very interesting; because it says: “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” How do you do that?! How are you “brave and courageous” and “wait patiently?”—[Laughter]—those are two different things!
Lee: So a part of bravery—and I am so guilty of this! I’m like a wild bull that, you know, comes out of the gate, ready to go. If I feel like God’s telling me to do something, I just go and do it!—right?
Lee: That doesn’t always work very well. In fact, it often gets me into a lot of trouble! [Laughter]
Bob: Right. [Laughter]
But I think that’s an interesting verse, because sometimes the bravest thing we can do—
Lee: —is wait.
Dennis: —is be still—
Dennis: —and not say anything.
Lee: So what is brave for me is different than what is brave for you. And for somebody else, it might be: “Wait patiently for the Lord”; and that is your bravery. For other people, it might be: “Go and be brave and courageous,”—meaning: “Step out and do something,”—and that is their bravery.
So what I have found bravery is—is that it’s different for everyone. For some people, bravery is just getting out of bed in the morning.
Lee: For other people, it’s just being able to put on our clothes. For others, it’s going to therapy; or for some, it’s taking medication; for some, it’s going to a counselor or leaving a church. I mean, everybody’s got a different bravery.
But I like how the verse, you know, it is, “Wait patiently for the Lord.” The Lord, then, can show you: “What is your brave?”
Dennis: And if we have a listener, who’s wanting to know how you cultivate bravery, I want to encourage you to do a little Bible study.
Open your Bible to the Book of Joshua, the first chapter / first nine verses. And I’m not going to tell you what all three of the commands are in here, but all three command people to be courageous. Courage comes from a combination of being on God’s mission for your life, being obedient to the Scriptures, and practicing His presence, which will stiffen your backbone.
Lee: Yes! Beautifully said!
Bob: Lee, I think you’ve done a great job here of reminding us that what God cares about is our character more than our appearance and that being brave is the new beautiful. That’s the title of the book Lee has written—that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online to order Brave is the New Beautiful: Finding the Courage to Be the Real You. Order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order:
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about what was one of the hardest seasons in Lee Blum’s life, when she experienced clinical depression, and how she found strength to be brave in the midst of that. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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