True Selves –
I listened to a speaker today talk of our “impostor selves.” He said these are the people we present to the world. They aren’t our true selves but the image we think others want us to be or what we want to appear to be. There are many problems with these impostor selves but the biggest one is they can never bring us peace. The reason is the impostor self is always changing, shifting, moving, playing catch-up, making excuses or apologizing for not meeting the expectations they have set for us.
To be our true selves is to be vulnerable and refuse to try to be all things to all people. It’s the acceptance that we aren’t perfect. There are more talented, better equipped, more able-bodied people and we’re okay with this truth. We have hurts, habits, and hangups. We let people down, don’t always do our best and are far weaker than most will ever believe, much less admit.
Allowing others to see us, the real us isn’t easy in a world which seems ready to tear down anyone who flashes signs of shortcomings and imperfections. However, most often the biggest critic isn’t found in our family, friends, or co-workers. Usually, the one we can’t please and have the hardest time outing the impostor to is ourselves.
Too Heavy –
Yesterday I needed to move a pile of garden soil, which was laying on a tarp, from one place in the yard to another. We had saved it for possible recycling but didn’t have to chance to get to it over the winter.
I had an idea to take a rope and run it through the grommets on the tarp. I was hoping was the rope would slide through the grommets, pull the tarp together with the soil inside and be able to slide it across the ground. It didn’t work. The rope pulled the grommets and the tarp together but it didn’t budge. There was too much soil which made it too heavy to move. Instead, one by one the grommets broke free from the tarp and all I had to show for my work was several grommets on the rope with no tarp attached. This meant I had to shovel the dirt into the back of the truck which took a lot of time and energy.
Life can be like my experience with the tarp yesterday. We are weighed down by different things and we’d like to move it, get it out-of-the-way as soon as possible. We look for the quick fix; a book, a seminar, a podcast, a sermon, advice from friends and family. While these may help there are seasons when we’re forced to dig deep, get ourselves dirty and wrestle with our deepest, darkest secrets, sins, weaknesses, hurts and experiences.
Only time, energy and determination will help us remove the heaviest things in our lives which are weighing us down.
Vulnerability or Weakness? –
I was talking with someone today about the difference between weakness and vulnerability when it comes to relationships.
Weakness is not having power. An inability to stop, inhibit, make someone quit or start a particular behavior. Weakness is not being able to choose.
Vulnerability, however, is having the strength to do or not do a particular behavior. Vulnerability comes from a place of power a place of being able to choose.
When we are weak in a relationship it means the other has power over us. We are at their mercy, control and cannot choose another way.
When we are vulnerable it means we have power but can choose to approach, love, be with the other in a place that puts us at risk.
If we need to be in control at all times, dominate the other with reminders of our power we will never know true love and intimacy. Both of these come from a place that bears an inherent risk; to be wounded, to be left powerless.
Weakness and vulnerability. Knowing and practicing the difference can mean a life of togetherness and equality or isolation and loneliness.
I was talking with someone the other day and we were trying to come to grips with a few issues which needed to be addressed so this person could move forward in life. We wanted to learn from his past but not be chained to it. One of the questions I asked was; “Who, if anyone, can criticize you?” The question hung in the air. I continued; “If we aren’t capable of receiving information about areas of our lives in which we need to improve we will never grow beyond our perception of ourselves.”
Being critical of ourselves, allowing others to shed light on dark, perhaps unexplored places, of who we are isn’t easy. I’m not sure anyone enjoys receiving an insight from someone else that isn’t flattering or realizing for ourselves we have a long way to go and grow, in multiple areas of life.
Wisdom teaches us that perfection isn’t ours for the taking but progression is a possibility. To progress, however, we must be vulnerable to the perception of weakness, habit, hurt or hang-up in ourselves and possess the willingness to accept it and begin to change.
Last night a front of mighty thunderstorms came roaring into our area. They were complete with strong winds, many lightning strikes, hail and a couple of hours worth of a drenching rain.
There are not too many other things which can make you feel small like a thunderstorm. The sheer power puts you in a state of awe. The four elder trees on our property which are at least 40 feet tall were shaking as though they were saplings. The water which fell made a stream where there had been only dry land. The wind blowing loosened and felled many branches while shaking the house.
Beth and I could only watch, listen and hope nothing would be damaged by the storm. We were safe as possible and everything else in our lives is replaceable. After a while, the storms passed and this morning I walked out to survey any lasting impact from the night before. Nothing more than a few limbs downed and dirt from the driveway moved about.
Wisdom teaches us that storms come into the lives of the “good” and the “bad”. They blow us around and seem to shake the very foundations of where we place our faith and hope. Storms make us feel small, insignificant and powerless. Wisdom tells us that’s one of the benefits of experiencing storms. Too often we forget how weak we truly are and storms bring; humility, silence, and teach us appreciation for what we should value and a thankful spirit when what we love most isn’t swept away.
What is Prayer? –
Last week someone asked me to pray for them. They explained what they were going through and I told them I certainly would remember them when seeking wisdom, peace and grace for those on my prayer list. Yesterday, someone told me they were praying for me. I know this person and many others pray for me regularly and it brings me a sense of hope.
The best definition of prayer I’ve ever come across is from Eugene Peterson; “Prayer isn’t getting God to do something but getting in on what God is already doing.” This to me is a powerful reminder that we’re not the catalyst to God acting. It’s also reflects the thought that God is present, knows our circumstances, is on our side and nothing escapes his attention.
Prayer comes in many forms and folks have countless views of how prayer works. I think what’s important is that prayer puts us in the position of humility, admitting we’re not in charge, have little, if any, real power. Pure prayer, for ourselves and others, is to want, desire the best but at the same time realizing we don’t know what’s best but trusting that God does.
When Beth and I made an offer on our little farm-house one of the provisos we placed in the contract was that an old, red, riding lawn mower be included in the purchase. Since the previous owner was going to be living in a camper in Florida he had no problem with this stipulation. I used it all last summer but during the fall problems began to plague the mower and late last year it died. It was going to cost almost as much to fix it as buying a new one. I had a relatively new push mower and when spring arrived I decided to use it to mow the grass. It wasn’t easy. We have almost 2 acres and the back yard has a good slope to it.
I would split the chore into two days. The front part of the yard took over 2 hours and the back, with the incline, was closer to 3. For almost two months I used the push mower but as temps began to climb and the humidity level rose I noticed by the end of the second day I was so tired I couldn’t do anything else. I was whooped, spent, done. It took almost everything I had to do this one thing. I could do it but nothing else. Finally, the Mrs. and I decided to buy a new lawn tractor. A couple of weeks ago I used it for the first time and it was a relief to have help, to not rely solely on my strength to do a relatively simple chore. I could now mow everything in one afternoon, do the weed eating with strength left over to work on other projects.
Last weekend, while using the new lawn mower, I reflected on my journey with severe depression and anxiety (https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/04/27/my-depression-and-anxiety-story/). I thought about the struggle to make it on my own, not ask for help. Trying to carry the burden of depression and anxiety took everything I had just to get through each day and the truth is that I was losing the battle. As hard as it was to admit I needed help. Finally going to see a specialist, talking about what these diseases were doing to me, agreeing to take meds, wasn’t easy, still isn’t, but it’s what needed to be done.
Understanding we can’t do it alone, asking for help, depending upon and trusting others to walk beside us, maybe carry us until we can walk again doesn’t make us weak but instead allows us to be strong again.
He sat a few feet from me and I watched as tears began to fill his eyes. It dawned on him, perhaps for the first time, the sum of his actions, words, thoughts and the effect they had upon his family. He had been so wrapped up in trying to control situations and people that he didn’t realize how many things had slipped from his grasp. Now, in a time of crisis and questioning, of rejection and regret he understood. Silence filled the space between us and I waited as he composed himself enough to speak. Until this point disappointments, difficulties and despair had been things which were outside of him, people and events were to blame. Now, he realized he was the designer of his own defeat, a victim of his own ego and self obsession.
It’s never easy to achieve and sustain self-awareness. There are moments when we see ourselves for who we really are; the weakness, selfishness and shallowness. The cold reality sets in and we often reach for the blanket of judgement and justification to stave off the chill. To recognize our real selves, to accept the imperfections, insecurities and insatiable desire to control, coerce and craft others and the world in our image is the most humbling and hurtful lesson to learn.
When we arrive at this place of suffering do we choose to find relief by reconstructing the illusion or embrace the brokenness as healing?
I met someone I didn’t like this week…maybe that’s too strong. I crossed paths with a person who came off as unfriendly, arrogant, boisterous and a bully. OK, that’s not any better.
Should I try one more time? No, wisdom tells me; “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
Ever encountered someone you instantly couldn’t stand? A moment when two lives intersected and for one or a myriad of reasons you developed a quick distaste for what they said, the way they acted, who they were as a person? This happened to me and it’s bothersome.
The reason I struggle with an immediate aversion towards another human being is the realization I don’t know this person. I had a glimpse of a tiny sliver of the tapestry that is his life. I’ve no idea about his past or his present struggles, difficulties, tragedies and obstacles he’s overcome. He may have an amazing life’s story and all I’ve read is this fraction of a sentence.
The truth is that too often our acceptance or rejection of a person is based on our prejudices and partialities. We sum up and slap a sticker on someone as; “my type” or “not my type” and never pause to question our reasons for doing so.
So, I stop to breathe, settle my thoughts and accept my weakness and flawed judgement. Who am I to decide a person’s worth? I will let go of my shortsightedness, look for goodness in every person I meet and hope, the next time someone doesn’t like me, they’ll do the same.