Perhaps this sounds like a post involving my preschooler and her friends. But it’s not–it’s about me. It’s about me trying to find courage to be transparent when all it seems to get me lately is a whole bunch of trouble. (For clarification, when I am talking transparency, I’m talking about being honest about the good things and hard things in my life, sharing struggles, and using discernment to be honest in situations or relationships. I am NOT talking about just wearing your emotions on your sleeve or being a downer all the time or being confrontational just to “get it off my chest”–I don’t think that any of these are Godly virtues, although I’m not gonna lie and say that I don’t also struggle with these!)
I have to admit that sometimes I feel a bit juvenile in my fear of mean people. I’ve always been slightly fearful of the obviously and outwardly mean people–the ones that call names, foam at the mouth when they don’t get their way, swear at the first person who gets in their way, etc. Working for several years at a credit union gave me the opportunity to see a lot of these mean people. Tell a mean person they screwed up their checking account or missed a car payment or are going to get charged for getting 20 cashier’s checks and WATCH OUT. Yikes.
The “meanies” I am meeting in my life today are less obvious and unfortunately (maybe fortunately?), I have been incredibly naive about them for most of my life. They are the gossips, the ill-wishers (not the well-wishers), the envious, and the selfish. I am learning that they are certainly more scary and ultimately more dangerous to me than the blatant raging lunatics.
Over the last few years, a series of circumstances has led me to recognize these undercover meanies and the effect they have on my relationships, my reputation and when I let it, even my happiness or peace. As a result, I have become more and more discreet about what I share, I let very few people into the depths of my heart or mind, and I have a really hard time trusting people. All of that is a recipe for disaster for me. I’m the kind of person that wants to be real, I have to be constantly processing my emotions and thoughts and I do that by talking it through it. Luckily I have a husband who is all about being real and is good to listen to me hash things out. I also have some close friends and family that I can call in hard times. But the struggle for me is that there are very few people in my daily life–the people that I interact with regularly in my community–that I can be transparent with. I feel like I am constantly holding myself back, I am retreating when I want to be pouring myself out, and I never know when I’ve said too much or have said something that will come back to haunt me.
I know that this is not a healthy way for me to live personally. I did this kind of thing for years throughout high school and college and I struggled constantly with depression because of it. As I learned to open up and be transparent, I grew and I felt a great deal of freedom. Now I’m finding myself hiding back in that dark closet again. Not because I don’t know better, but because I don’t know what else do to. There have been a handful of times in the last few years, and even recently, when my transparency has been used by “friends” to hurt me or to benefit themselves. It is crushing and it is incredibly awkward in a small community where I can’t avoid these people who have proved themselves untrustworthy or downright dangerous. I want to be real, especially with people I call my friends, but I’ve been so shocked and hurt by people who I’ve been close friends with, that I find myself unsure of who to trust and who to even spend time with. I feel too old to be floundering in relationships like this and wonder if I’m the late bloomer or if the meanies just haven’t bloomed since junior high.
In spite of all of this, or perhaps because of it, I feel like God is challenging me in a way I don’t know if I particularly like (I guess it wouldn’t be much of a challenge if He was telling me to do what I was inclined to do)……over the last few weeks, He has used three different women and their words to show me His heart and His desire.
One woman told my Bible Study group that we cannot fulfill what God has ordained for us to do if we are not transparent. She used the exact word that I cherish so much: transparency. “We must have transparency.” Transparency isn’t just a healthy way for me to live, it is a vital aspect of the Christian life.
Another woman told me of an example of true Christ-like love….a person that keeps offering love in relationships where it is destined to be rejected or hurt at some time. After countless betrayals and rejection, Christ-like love continues to love and to offer love to new people. How must Christ have felt knowing that some of the friends he loved best would turn against him and deny him?
The third woman whom God used to challenge me said: “How can I learn to trust someone if I don’t give them a chance to prove themselves trustworthy?” When hurt, we tend to focus so hard on protecting ourselves that we fail to give people a chance to show us that they can bless us, not just hurt us.
Ok, so while God is perhaps teaching me to be more discerning in the relationships that I invest a lot of myself in, I think He is also teaching me that I need to be real, I need to continue to “put myself out there” even if it means that I may, or most likely will, get hurt in the process. A good friend of mine said there can’t be more love in a relationship if there aren’t a few bumps along the way that force you to choose between walking away or digging in and making it work. I’ve learned how beautiful this is in my marriage, I just need to learn how to be courageous enough to make it happen in my friendships! (But can I pray that I get a break from meanies for awhile?!)