Why do you have to go and
Make things so complicated?
I see the way you’re
Acting like you’re somebody else
Gets me frustrated.
Life’s like this, you
And you fall and you crawl
And you break and you take
What you get and you turn it into
Honesty. Promise me
I’m never gonna find you fake it
–Avril Lavigne, Complicated
Think of a time when you had a secret. No one knew this about you because you hadn’t told anyone. You may have been hiding it because you were ashamed. You cheated on that exam in school. The secret sin you only do alone. You just want to look good so you are “putting on the best face.” So you stay private and avoid letting others see who you really are.
It may also be that you just have a funny quirk about you. Like the fact that you avoid stepping on all the cracks in the sidewalk. It doesn’t hurt you. It’s just that you don’t tell everybody cause it’s silly, or embarrassing. You keep these secrets to yourself, and rarely tell someone, if at all. Why?
You are protecting yourself.
You have been criticized. Someone watched you, caught the mistakes, told you that you failed. Someone pushed you relentlessly, not accepting that you have imperfections.
There are dangers to being open. It’s just not safe. It will never be safe with certain people.
But haven’t you at times wanted to tell someone a secret? You have felt it. You are just bursting because you want to share it with someone.
You have just gotten back the big paper you did for the semester grade and you got an A! Sometimes it’s bad news or pain that’s too great to bear on your own. You need to tell someone or it feels like it will crush you under the weight of the burden. Sometimes it’s a dream, what your heart longs for.
Every one of us has this dilemma: We need to protect ourselves because we know we can’t trust completely. But we also long to share who we really are. Others see the censored version of us, striking the balance between safety and connection.
It is one of the many paradoxes of life that we don’t become ourselves by relaxing. We must choose it, cause it. It is frightening to open ourselves to others. But we can’t get to the experience of real acceptance if the person other people know is sort of homogenized and processed, packaged for the public. We can’t be real if we manufacture one self to be seen and one that we keep private.
We can’t be real without allowing other people to know us deeply enough to tell us when the pieces don’t fit together. It’s like the spinach in our teeth after a meal. Other people can see it but we can’t. If they can’t tell us, we are a caricature of ourselves.
The hard way is to keep these things to ourselves and wait for the circumstances of life to be played out, where we will make our mistakes without the benefit of a group of people who love us and support us. We will have to learn from the cold, hard consequences of our actions. It’s always harder to learn from the consequences of our choices. But we can fool ourselves that we can avoid both the pain of consequences and the pain of revealing ourselves to others. I think it is less pain to risk being known. As the Bible puts it “Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”
In order to become authentic, we have to allow other people to see the person we are along the way. We are all becoming. In revealing ourselves to others, they can ask the question, is this the person you really want to become? Is this who you really are?
Find somebody you can take the risk with to be real. The reward is worth the pain that may come with some missteps. You can’t have real intimacy without letting yourself be known.