This is a picture that a friend posted on facebook a couple of weeks ago. When I read it, the statement hit my like a ton of bricks and this is the conversation that followed under that picture:
Me: “Sometimes that is so much easier said than done.“
Her: “I agree. but if we remind ourselves and keep striving it will become a little easier….and we need other women in our life to also remind and challenge us!”
Me: “This response to the picture and your statement could fill a book. The part about needing other women in our lives encourage and challenge us is probably one of the biggest issues. We live in a society of the Pinterest Mom and mommy wars. There is an expectation on how a woman should look and act. For me personally and several others I know, there is often a conflict b/w the inward and the outward. If most women were honest, I would even go so far as to guess there is often a major contradiction b/w what is presented to the rest of the world and what is going on w/ the inner self. I think part of this comes from the fact that we don’t allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable to other women out of fear of not measuring up and seeming weak. Most women will share some of the surface level stuff, but won’t let anyone in to the very core. Also, I don’t always think there is permission from other women to be that open and honest. It is easier to walk around w/ a mask on than it is to share the struggles of the heart.”
Her: “So true and your comment about permission from other women to be that open and honest- is true but I think its out of guilt and fear….wow! lots to think about with your comment….”
So…. Yep, not easy. There are parts of my life that I am an open book and then there are others, I keep shut, locked up so tight that they will never see the light of day. I am guessing that if most of you are honest with yourselves, then you will admit that you are the same way. My question is why? What are we so afraid of? Why can’t we be honest with ourselves and with each other?
My friend hit the nail on the head. “Guilt and Fear.” We feel guilty for feeling the way we do. We are afraid of what others will think if we actually share our thoughts and feelings out loud. I get it, really I do, because I am just as guilty as the next person, but this is not what we are told to do in scripture:
“1 Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted also. 2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he is deceiving himself. 4 But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else. 5 For each person will have to carry his own load. 6 The one who is taught the message must share his goods with the teacher. 7 Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap.” Galatians6:1-7
I understand that not everything we keep locked up inside is a sin, but at the same time, it does keep us from feeling complete and total peace. It keeps us from truly connecting with those we love the most. Holding in many of these thoughts and feelings prevent us from knowing true freedom. It brings about the possibility of holding ourselves back and prevents us from moving forward. On the outside everything looks great, but there are certain places on the inside that we may be a complete and total mess.
Going back to my second statement and exploring relationships with those around us, no wonder we run from the very thing that we need to do. We all have a couple of friends who have been through it all with us. They have rejoiced with us in our triumphs. They have allowed us to cry on their shoulders in our lowest moments, and yet, there is a part of us that we still refuse to share. Our friends have proven they have staying power and that they can carry just about anything that life throws at us and yet, we remain silent.
On the outside, we look amazing! We look like we have it all together. We are involved in various ministries within the church. Our marriages look pretty good. Our kids are pretty well behaved. We have perfected the art of answering “I am so blessed.” We have taken notes from our theater days and can turn the stressful look into a happy one in an instant as soon as we step out of our cars on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. There are so many times we sit and listen to sermons and feel like the pastor has x-ray vision and can straight through us. During the invitation we want to run and cry at the altar, but yet, we stand calmly in our pews with our feet cemented to the ground. We don’t dare give away the fact that we feel like a mess on the inside.
So many times we think we can deal with things on our own. We think that we don’t need another person to help us shoulder whatever it is that we are dealing with. We become prideful even in the midst of our darkest hour and in the midst of our greatest pain. We are afraid of being looked down upon by others. We are afraid that we don’t measure up to those around us. Failure. Who wants to feel like a failure? None of us do. Not one person thrives on the feelings of not measuring up. In my last blog, I shared the struggles of the previous year and no, I didn’t say a word to those in my inner circle. I was too full of pride to let even them in. I hate feeling like a failure and feeling like I don’t measure up to those around me.
Sometimes, it is pride and other times, we are afraid of what others may think. We live in a society of the Pinterest Mom and the ever troubling Mommy Wars. We all know her, that one mother who seems to be perfect. Her house is perfect. Her wardrobe is perfect. Her children are perfect and at church, she has her hands in everything and never seems to break a sweat. Then here we come in yoga pants, a baggy t-shirt and our kids look a hot mess. We laugh off our appearance and pray that no other mother, especially that mother even begins to have a clue about what is going on inside our hearts and minds.
Letting other women in? Really? That is so much easier said than done. Many of us are surrounded by an incredible group of godly women, but we tend to keep walls up and prevent even our inner circle in. Just think about though. How much better would we all be, if we actually let others in? What if actually bore one another’s burdens? What if we were willing to let down our guards and let others walk with us through whatever it is we may be dealing with? What if we were honest about hopes and dreams? What if we shared our failures and our struggles?
If churches are a hospital for sinners and not a country club for saints, why do we hold everything in? Church should be the one place we can be ourselves and lay our burdens at the altar. I do think there should be boundaries when we share. I don’t think we need to share our inner most thoughts and feelings with everyone we come in contact with. There is a time and a place to share, but the point is that we need to share. We need to let others in and church should be that place.
I realize that I have posed more questions than answers in this post, but this is something I have been thinking about long before my friend posted this picture. Since she posted, it is something I have thought about almost every day. Confession: After my last blog post, a friend from my inner circle sent me a text because she had no clue that any of that was going on and called me out on my pride. Yes, she has been a friend long enough that she has earned the right to do so. Again, I am pretty sure that most of us need to confess our pride and let down our guard with those we love and trust the most. We need to give them permission to decide what is too much for them to hear and give them permission to speak into our lives the way only those closest to use can. We also need to be willing to do the same for them.
All this being said, there are times when our inner circle is only the place to start. There are certain situations in which a therapist is needed. There are times when our friends are not qualified to walk us through certain things. If the thing you are dealing with the most is a mental health issues, then I implore you to please seek out a trained therapist.
In the meantime, hold a mirror up to your heart and be honest with yourself about what areas you keep locked and hidden from those closest to you. Are these areas in which you may need confess your pride? Are there areas in which you need to let certain people in? Think about it. Pray about it and then do whatever it is that you need to do.
Once the inside has been cleaned out, then the inside will actually start to look like the outside. What an amazing freeing thought!