When I was a teenager, I met a boy while staying at a lake cabin with my family, and I liked him very much. After returning home from the trip, we spent a lot of time talking on the phone since we did not live close to each other. After a while we declared ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend. The next time we traveled to the cabin I brought my best friend with me, and the two of them instantly fell for each other. Unfortunately, I was upset and angry that my friend would do this to me. They spent all their time together and only occasionally and reluctantly included me, which only infuriated me more. In my childish thinking, I began to scheme of how I could break them up and have him run back to me.
I decided that if they saw me in a precarious situation, he would help me and they would feel horrible about what they had done to me and everything would return to normal. One evening I sat alone on the dock, watching the sunset and feeling sorry for myself. Then I thought to myself, what if I were to swim out until I couldn’t swim anymore and scream for help? The boy would surely come to my rescue. I jumped into the water and swam quite a distance out. By then I was completely exhausted and in real danger. Though I tried to scream out, it was difficult, and in the end, no one heard me. Even if they had, the sun was too far down and no one could see me. No one was coming to help me; there would be no romantic movie scene rescue for me.
I began to panic and attempted to swim back, but I was swallowing water and flailing in place. I took hold of my emotions and prayed fervently for God to help me get back to shore. Then I began to swim but every stroke was laborious. Thankfully I finally made it and praised God for allowing me to live. I told no one of my stupidity and felt embarrassed and ashamed. Looking back as an adult, it is obvious that my plan would never have worked.
I have since learned that I am not the only one who has made a bad decision to try and get attention. Sometimes it is through small things, like acting like a class clown to get laughs, or more dangerous decisions in the desire for attention like mine that almost cost me my life.
Here’s what’s important to understand. I did not fall into the category of someone who was seriously depressed. Nor was I mentally challenged in any way other than the fact that I was lacking maturity. I also never attempted anything like it again. Anyone could fall prey to this type of bad thinking; what may seem like a good idea at the time rarely is. But God wants something different for us. This type of thinking is self-focused, whereas God wants us to express an outward focus toward others.
Here are a few things to consider if you find yourself wanting to get attention in ways that are dangerous or extreme:
Talk to others about how you feel. You could even use my story if you would like. If I had heard a story like mine back then, I don’t think I would have attempted what I did, and instead tried to work through my relationship issues some other way. Make sure you seek advice from adults you trust who are also converted. “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31, NIV). Do not be afraid of being laughed at or ignored. Those who have had similar experiences as mine often feel they cannot talk to anyone because it seems so stupid, or they’re afraid their family and friends might not understand. But know that others also struggle with unruly emotions and the desire for attention, so it’s okay to open up.
Pray that God will direct you in a way that His will is done and not your own. Remember that our human thoughts are not God’s (Isaiah 55:8-9). Take control of your emotions. Understand that our emotions often control our actions. Sometimes all that’s needed to stop us from moving forward in a wrong way is to take a moment and consider why we are thinking about doing certain things.
Take a time-out before making any big decisions. If I had sat down and really thought everything out I may not have decided to do what I did. God gave us a mind that thinks differently than any animal. We are given wisdom, but it often takes some time for us to work out the details. God gave us the ability to use our minds to figure out the right thing to do, and as mentioned above, He also guides us when we pray to Him.
Sometimes I consider how I could have done things differently. Maybe if I had just told my friend and the boy how I really felt and not held it all in. It probably wouldn’t have changed anything but at least I would have let it out and not felt the need to do what I did. I could have prayed about it and asked for peace of mind. I could have also taken my friend aside alone and explained how much the boy meant to me and she may have listened. I should have just enjoyed the time at the cabin. It’s often difficult to have a good time when you have been hurt, but sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all. This boy was not worth my time if he could turn from me so quickly. I should have realized that. In the end, my self-worth was not reliant on someone who really did not care about me.
As an adult I often look back at the decisions I have made in my past and shudder. What seemed wise to me at the time was anything but wise. If I had at the time someone to direct me I surely would not have made so many wrong decisions. Think about these points the next time you are seeking attention and maybe you can make a better choice than I did.