Writing this blog has brought me a lot of tears in a very short amount of time. My poor husband- I’m not sure he thought it possible for one person to cry so much. It is incredibly hard for me to stand in other people’s judgment. And putting your heart and soul out there for others to critique brings a whole lot of judgment, some that’s fair and a whole lot that’s not. Every time I feel judged, I break down and I swear that I am done. No more writing. No more blog. It just isn’t worth it. And then something happens every single time. Someone pulls me aside quietly and says, “Thank you. Thank you for being honest. It has helped me, and I am so grateful for it.”
And then I remember why I feel so passionately about writing the way I do. I believe that honesty and vulnerability are freedom. They are freedom from the prison of fear and isolation that so many of us live in, the prison that I have lived in for a very long time. Each time I open myself up and become vulnerable, whether it is one-on-one in a relationship or publicly through writing, I become a little more free. Free to be who I am, no more and no less. Free from pretending that life isn’t hard sometimes. Free from others’ expectations that I have it all together.
Here’s the reality- no one has it all together. Our theology will never be perfect. Our houses will never be clean enough or big enough or fancy enough. Our kids will never behave well enough or stop driving us insane or win enough awards to make us feel like good parents. We will never look around at our peers and think, “I’ve figured it out. I’ve got it all together, so NOW I can let people in to see the real me because I’m finally good enough.”
We spend so much time comparing our real life (the part that only we see) to the images of other peoples’ lives that they project (the part they want everyone to see), and we think we don’t measure up. Well, guess what? It’s a mirage. It isn’t real. They are just as messed up as we are, and I would guess that those who work the hardest to perfect the image are the most afraid of letting you see the reality. It takes work to keep that show going every day of your life; no one would put in that amount of work unless they were getting a big payoff.
But, here’s the freedom that I’ve discovered. Once you take the first step to say, “I don’t want to play this game anymore. I don’t want to pretend. I want it to be okay just where I am, exactly who I am,” all of a sudden it gives other people permission to be just who they are, too. And when everyone stops pretending and allows themselves to be vulnerable and real, that’s when we can really see and connect with the each others’ hearts.
When we can connect with each other on a heart level about what’s real and true and hard in our lives, we realize that we aren’t alone. We allow another person to come in and be with us in our sorrow and pain. And miraculously, somehow that brings joy, even in the hardest circumstances. It is life-giving, freeing us from the isolation we would otherwise live in to keep the image of perfection alive. It is the only way we can truly love our neighbor and be loved by our neighbor.
Being vulnerable does bring its own trials and challenges, though. Some people will be kind to your heart, and others won’t. Those that have not been kind as I’ve written from my heart have cost me many, many tears. But through those tears, I’ve discovered a profound truth about the state of my heart. I realized that when someone says they don’t like what I’ve written or my writing isn’t ‘good enough’ what I hear is that I’m not good enough. And I desperately want to be good and be good enough. It’s a truth that I never would have discovered if I hadn’t been brave enough to share the real me.
This realization has forced me to go back to my Maker and ask him if I’m good enough. He’s the only one that can really speak the truth to my heart. And even though I know that his answer is a resounding yes, sometimes my heart feels otherwise. I also know that despite all of this, there probably will still be tears. Tears that you don’t like me enough, that I haven’t said the right thing, that I’m unworthy of whatever voice I’ve been given. But, you know what? I’m just going to be brave. Brave enough to be wrong or unliked or misunderstood.
Be brave. It’s not the easiest way, but it’s the best way.