Life Inside the Fishbowl

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Marty Hadding Clear Conscience Community Linkup

Counselor and author Lucille Zimmerman found herself inside a toxic environment but felt powerless to leave. When she mustered the courage to get out, God renewed her joy—and gave her a clear conscience. In a community post from our Clear Conscience theme, she writes, "I felt free. Weightless."

While I was swimming around in the ocean of my career as a counselor, author, and teacher, I saw what appeared to be a cool bunch of fish. It seemed like they swam where the action was. I wasn’t looking to get in that cluster, but somehow it happened.

At first it was exciting. I was privy to all the news and gossip.

I felt official.

Soon, however, I recognized I was no longer in the ocean. I was in a small goldfish bowl inside the ocean.

Never Enough

I saw too much. Even though the fish in the bowl were Christian, characters didn’t line up. What people saw from the outside of the bowl wasn’t what was happening inside.

Sweet-looking fish inside the bowl bit hard—like sharks. Bettas took swipes at me when I least expected it. As if that wasn’t painful enough, I got caught in a swirling vortex around one particular Big Fish. It was like those lazy rivers at theme parks; you try to pull out, but the current is too strong. I felt pressure to be all she wanted me to be.

But I was never enough.

I could have jumped out of the bowl, but I saw what happened to those who had done it before. It was ugly. So I decided to stay.

I missed my old life, I missed having friends who were “normal” (not perfect, but kind). Wise people told me to get out before I got dumped into a blender and poured out as a fish frappé.

Four years went by.

Getting Out

And then one comment from me caused Big Fish to pull out the numb-chucks. She thrashed all over and nearly broke the bowl. It was scary and painful. I had no choice, so I jumped out.

I thought I would feel sad, but instead I felt as if I won the lottery and sailed off in a hot air balloon. I felt free. Weightless. Euphoric.

Almost instantly, my creativity and joy came rushing back. God filled my life with friends who made me belly laugh. Ladies who were tender, kind, and full of integrity came alongside me.

Once in a while, I feel sad and mad that I wasted four years of my life inside a toxic fish bowl. I look back and see my personality had changed while I was there. I had lost my joy and pieces of my character. I had started to become like the fish in the bowl. But then I remind myself I did get out.

Enjoying the freedom and beauty in the ocean has left me with a clear conscience.