Will someone be real PLEASE! Part 2

To everyone who commented or e-mailed, thanks so much for the great thoughts yesterday! So much good stuff to think about!

Now some more thoughts on being real:

A friend of mine has shared that he feels alone sometimes even in a crowd. Another friend has shared with me that even when she’s in a group of friends she feels like no one really wants her there. I have heard others express similar feelings. These are Christians, by the way, who have many Christian friends. What’s the deal with this? Why is this such a common feeling? And why are we afraid to talk about it? As I mentioned in the first post, this is another one of those times where Satan’s power to make us feel isolated could be diminished if we would talk about these feelings.

Several of you in your comments yesterday referred to the fear of other’s reactions as the reason that we are afraid to be vulnerable. Should not those of us who are Christians be able to provide a place of acceptance so that we are not so afraid of revealing ourselves? And Angie had a great comment on our first reactions to people when they do share their hearts and lives with us. I can’t put it any better than you did, Angie, so here it is:

Think about shifting our first response… Instead of a bullet list of things to do to make it all better, what if our first response to people was always full acceptance, arms open wide and full of love… hearts willing to fight for each other in prayer and trusting that God will make a way for this person (so I don’t have to!).

Of course, there are newborn Christians among us who may not know how to handle someone who is opening up their lives and revealing things that are hard to handle, but I know many, many folks who have been following Christ for years and, I believe, at this point should be able to handle whatever a person brings to them in the way Angie described above. Am I expecting too much?

Another thing I’ve noticed relating to this topic is that we’re drawn to people who are real. We like speakers and writers who are honest about their shortcomings. We long for truth and truthfulness.

This makes me think of the minister of the church where I worship. He is such an awesome speaker. His messages are very Biblical and very relevant. I think one of the reasons that he is such an effective speaker is because he is honest and down-to-earth about his own personal struggles. This past Sunday he shared about a time recently when he had a day off with nothing to do. He was feeling bored and lonely. So in his struggle to find some way to satisfy these feelings, he decides what he needs to do to make himself feel better is to go to Wal-Mart (that’s as good as it gets in this small town!). Even though he doesn’t need anything, he spends and hour and a half in Wal-Mart and buys several things just to have something to do. How simple that story is but how many of us can relate to that? Being bored? Feeling lonely? Buying things to make us feel better?

I believe many of us have a feeling deep down that we have to hide our true selves. We believe “If they see the real me, they will not like me” or even worse “they will be horrified or disgusted”. Then they will leave, and I will be alone. This feeling many of us possess is the complete opposite of what I believe to be a truth–that we are drawn to someone who is true and real and honest enough to bare their soul. On the rare occasions that I have found someone willing to share a part of their hearts with me (and, yes, occasionally even some of my friends who I’m being so hard on do give me a quick glimpse of their true selves), the experience is so refreshing and encouraging to me. Instead of thinking worse of that person, I have a deeper respect for them, and I trust them more.

I was recently in a small group setting where there was a person who was there for the first time. He was completely open about what had been going on in his life. It was so refreshing to me. I cannot help but love someone who’s willing to be that vulnerable! But he is a new Christian and doesn’t yet know that we aren’t really supposed to share all of that stuff. 🙂

Most of you who know me know that I’m a huge Sara Groves fan. She has a song on her newest cd called Honesty. Here are the lyrics:

here in the stillness

where thoughts are born

here in our frailty we’re tattered and torn

tattered and torn

here in confession

here in our mess

here in the places we’re mostly undressed

mostly

oh honesty

oh honesty

the truth be told

for the saving of our souls

here in the corner

where we craft our pain

here in the open we’re laying our blame

laying our blame

here in the hallway

here behind doors

here in the places we wage our private wars

wage our private wars

oh honesty

oh honesty

the truth be told

for the saving of our souls

only the truth and truthfulness can save us now

only the truth and truthfulness can save us

only the truth and truthfulness can save us

can save us now

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6 Comments

Filed under Honesty

6 responses to “Will someone be real PLEASE! Part 2

  1. It’s difficult to share everything with other people but some of us are just more private than others.

    I know for a fact that there are things about me that people wouldn’t like if they knew me deep down inside – I know this because I’ve learned things about other people that I don’t like. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them and I don’t want to be around them.

    I don’t choose to share all my struggles, I keep them in my closet where I talk to God about them. It seems to work for me. But then again, I’m a little weird!

  2. I guess you struck a chord with me this morning. I don’t think that I’m any less of a real person just because I don’t share every struggle I have. I know that I am to be sincere and honest. I don’t deny struggles if asked, I just don’t choose to share every one that I have.

    Wow, obviously this is a very touchy subject.

  3. Amy

    I think I’m alot like Terri.

    Being real is just being who you are and who God made you to be. We all have differing levels of introversion/extraversion with differing needs to share things. Some of us are more “thinkers”, some are more “feelers”, and that plays into the equation as well. But all of us struggle with similar battles, I’m convinced.

    I love Angie’s thoughts that you quoted. We can all respond to others in the way she describes. Offering love over judgment.

    And thanks for sharing the lyrics to Sara’s song. I want to start listening to her music again. I hear her newest CD is awesome.

    Great posts, Kim Joy!

  4. Sandy

    I warn you. This is long.

    Kim, I hear the real pleading in your voice. You’re a marvelous writer, by the way. Most of us have not been brought up to be real–ever. Society, small towns, families with secrets, especially church: all of these have led us never to show a face that isn’t composed (in both senses of the word).

    The need to pretend to perfection has pervaded the Church of Christ in my experience, but it’s there in other churches too. I’ve always noticed how Bible class discussions remain utterly abstract as if we need to intellectualize or generalize in order to KEEP someone from opening up. If that happened, I think it would have embarrassed and unsettled us. The emphasis on being worthy of salvation, combined with the gossip network and the threat of being disfellowshiipped, actually made it so that people didn’t dare speak even when most angered or distressed or moved by a topic. (And then there’s the women speaking thing….) In recent years, it’s changed so that people will offer “good” or self-praising examples of things. That’s as specific as most of us will get. What do we expect in a realm in which the same prayer is memorized and spoken exactly the same forever?

    In most of my life, the only exceptions to this were new Christians who dared to ask questions about, say, spiritual gifts. They were so quickly stomped on with horror in the tone, with chapter and verse, that it’s no wonder they stopped that very quickly. At the base of this, I think, is fear and the need for certitude in ways that humans can’t find it.

    But that’s not what you’re asking exactly, although heritage has much to do with who we are, with what gives us stomach cramps when we try to change. You’re asking why even in the most open of groups, even with the closest of friends and family, we hide who we are. Matthew Arnold wrote a wonderful poem about this called “The Buried Life.” If you have time, look it up. You can get it easily online. My students respond to it strongly.

    I don’t know all the why’s, Kim. I’d guess that, as Arnold says, we let the “thousand nothings of the hour” distract and dull us. I know that most of us don’t love ourselves enough to show who we are. I’d guess that in some ways while inviting openness, we unconsciously show our fear of it too, even when it comes from others. We fear we might be burdened with something or be inadequate to know how to respond.

    I’m interested in how to get past it. Again, I’m not the answer person. But I’ve lived a lot longer than you have, and I have two suggestions that I need to hear as much as anyone. First, we’ve got to get brave. If we’ll take a chance and show our hidden selves, eventually, others will do the same. Most people really want to know each other more deeply. But, beyond that, the real self shown almost always resonates with the real self of the other person. We’re usually more alike than we think.

    Here is where I’ve made progress with Mama. Maybe because of my black-sheepness, I took a chance years ago to speak to her from the heart in spite of all the ways she discourages that. Now, she still leaves pamphlets about divorce lying around but I know it’s because she can’t help fearing for my soul. She wants to help it but she can’t But years ago I said to her, “I cry when this man touches me” and she got it. I kept on saying things like that, waiting until I was calm but showing my feelings when I did. I learned quickly that I’d underestimated her response to me. The surprise of it all was when she began to be real with me.

    It’ s much easier to avoid it all, and I do that with Daddy, usually. But here’s an example of how it can work when it does. I could get offended when Mama says something harsh about Tommy’s hanging the Christmas lights. I do get irritated. But now I stop to think: why is she doing this? As Tommy discovered from the church bulletin, they’d been hit hard about not celebrating Christmas and witnessing against it. Okay, that’s something I don’t like at all, but she is not able to resist such doctrine. I know that. Her life, her times, all different from me and mine.

    Here’s what I did and what I wish Tommy had been able to reach through the hurt to do. I said, “I want to talk to you about the Christmas lights. You need to know that we see nothing wrong with having them. We’re not you. We don’t believe the same things. It’s your house, and I’ll take them down when I leave tomorrow night, in case you’re worried about people seeing them and witnessing to you. But this is a gift of love from Tommy because he’s sensed from my blog that I’m depressed and that the lights cheer me up.”

    That’s all it took to turn that entire thing around. Bottom line: she loves her kids. She’ll switch off the judgment in a minute and begin to worry about the depression. Okay, I’ve made her worry, but I’ve been real. Now, she will likely say something else judgmental pretty soon, but I get so much less of thing than my siblings do.

    Blogs encourage realness, by the way. What you give in reading and responding helps us change a culture of hiding.

    Okay, here’s a last thought. Sometimes it’s our fault. I remember years ago I thought a friend no longer liked me because she quit calling and visiting. I thought immediately, “Now that she knows me she’s found something she doesn’t like.” I wasted months in self-blame and pain until somehow one day I was with her and started crying, asking about what I had done. She was astonished. It had nothing to do with me or anyone else. It was because she was living in a well of physical pain. I had felt alone and misunderstood, unable to show my true self. But my own self-love issues isolated me.

    Last night on Delilah as I drove home, I head a young woman call in with a wish for a boyfriend. She was 34, really shy, convinced that women should not approach men. She said she couldn’t do it. Okay, we know that she could; in fact, she should. The song Delilah played said so. I don’t know her; I don’t mean to judge. But I wonder if the problem isn’t that her focus is too much on herself–what the guy might think, whether he might reject her. What if she said “hello” to some guys just in a spirit of genuine friendship? What if she reached out kindly, not identifying them as potential boyfriends, but as almost certainly nice people?

    The answer to so much loneliness, grief, and, yes, depression is to try to get out of ourselves. Here “Dear Abby” is right, I think. Volunteer work for people really in need would likely cure most of us, and not only for the usual reasons given. We might find that the people we’re trying to help aren’t like the people in our so-called comfort zone. Maybe they’re able to open up more, to reveal themselves warts and all. Maybe I could learn from them and take it back into my too often silent world.

    If this sounds like preaching, it’s mean to be preaching to myself. Maybe if we feel this way in a larger group, like a church, we could start a group with some kind of name and purpose devoted to being real. Or maybe we could start with some other pretext. Book groups work well because they give us something to start with that’s maybe like us, although not us. Once any group keeps meeting for a year, in an informal setting, and then adds to that something like a retreat, if the leader is open to saying, “I’ve never told anyone this” or “Here’s something about me that might surprise you” the rest will follow, so that almost immediately you gratefully jump into the real every time you see each other.

    We get there by people like you not letting us go, urging us to answer your email.

    Here’s something real: I did a foolish, prideful, lazy thing. I didn’t like the new psychiatrist my doctor sent me to (she had me summed up the minute I walked in the door and didn’t want to hear anything else–it’s always easier that way) and I let my prescription for Zoloft lapse. My daughter has been off it all through pregnancy and nursing and doing well, seemingly. I made it okay for about a month, and then I didn’t. I’ve been sick and alone at home and scared at times by how black things are. I HAVEN”T called to ask for help from people who would be glad to give it. It’s depression; that’s how it works. I’m seeing my former psychiatrist on Friday, and work has helped me to cope by getting me out of myself. But I NEED your prayers.

    Kim, I love the snow pictures. I treasure them for the joy I see in all of you and I treasure you and Tommy for being the kind of parents who would wake up one morning and do this. We stay at the Choo-Choo sometimes. It’s fun. Trev is back on Sunday. Maybe we’ll drive somewhere the following weekend. I hope we’ll come to see you really soon.

  5. John Thomson

    Just discovered your blog, I’ll have to come back and read more. BTW, in a recent concert by Sara she alluded in her sharing that she wasn’t feeling her best that night, her bus lost its transmission, she forgot her concert attire and most of all she was feeling real bad for her sister Juliet who is struggling with a serious illness that leaves her debilitated of strength. I guess you would call that being vulnerable. Pray for Juliet

  6. TERRI, I appreciate your comments and openness about the fear involved in opening up to others. I guess I do need to clarify in my posts that even though I used the example of how we act at church, I do not really expect us to be extremely real in larger settings. It really is too risky–there’s no telling who’s there and what they may do with the info. I guess church is just an easy example to use because it seems like it should be a safe place where we could at least say when someone asks how we’re doing “I’m not doing so good and could use some prayers.”

    I do believe that every Christian in reality should be able to find at least one other person to turn to in times of deep need. I believe that we need this. Yes, God is the only one who can meet all of our deepest needs and longings, but He was before time a God of community/relationship (the TRINITY) and created us in His image to be people of relationship and then gives us a body to have experience relationship in.

    AMY, I have been thinking more and more this week about the different ways people do handle their problems. I can respect that some people just do not feel the need to share their problems. But my feeling that more people want this than admit it have been confirmed by the comments here and by the large number of e-mails I have received this week that are not posted here.

    Tommy said that perhaps I need to be more clear that it is not wrong to be the kind of person who does not need someone to share with. I do, however, think that it is wrong whenever someone does share and they are quickly shut down with Christian cliches along the lines of “Christians shouldn’t have problems.” Several have shared these kinds of experiences with me in e-mails, and it just breaks my heart!

    Oops! I accidentally hit submit and I was not through commenting.

    Sara Groves new cd is awesome! Everyone of her cds I have come back to over and over. And almost every single song has been mine “favorite” at some time because it just fit what I needed at that moment.

    SANDY, I absolutely love your comments–so much insight! Now I know why I’ve always been drawn to you and regretted that we do not get to see you more–you have so many valuable things to teach!

    I love everything you wrote. The parts you shared about your mother are so touching and just illustrate perfectly the value of being honest even with someone you love dearly which is often the hardest place to be real. Why is that?

    I also agree wholely with your thoughts are being too inwardly focused. I do believe that some of us are just created differently and have the tendency to focus inwardly more. I know that I’m constantly evaluating myself as far as where am I right now, what do I need to work on next. I, for years, struggled with shyness and still do in situations with crowds of people I do not know. I read somethings about shy people just focusing on themselves too much. It struck me in a bad way the first time I read that, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was true. When I am in an uncomfortable situation, I have found if I just pick one person to approach and talk to it turns into a delightful time because my focus is turned away from me and my feelings of insecurity and on to the other person.

    Volunteer work with others is a great idea! I’m actually working with a lady right now from the housing projects a few blocks from our home. It’s a long story I plan to blog sometime, but the whole experience has been one of the biggest blessings of my life thus far. It has been so much fun to learn about a culture very different from what’s familiar to me. The lady who has become one of my dearest friends is far more open about her life and mistakes than most people I know. She is truly like a breath of fresh air in my life.

    JOHN THOMSON, WELCOME! Thanks for sharing about Sara. I also was at a concert of hers where she shared that she was not feeling her best. Also, her video her NOMAD dvd is pretty real.

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