“I’m fine,” I lied, as my friend asked me how I was doing. The truth was that I was struggling and holding back tears. But I didn’t tell my friend that. Instead, I gave a brief run-down about how things were going with my writing, my relationships and my church stuff. We ended the conversation on an upbeat tone, glad that we “caught up.”
I felt disconnected. I had some things going on inside me that were pretty core to how I was doing at the moment, but I didn’t share them. Instead, I only shared part of myself, and kept other things hidden.
A little vulnerability = only a little connection.
Why do we have trouble sharing the more vulnerable parts of ourselves? I think for me, I get embarrassed because my inner life is often so messy. I believe the lie that if I truly shared myself with another person — especially the bad parts — I would be rejected. So I hide.
If you are a spiritual person, I think it is interesting that the Genesis account talks about this tendency to hide the “bad” parts of ourselves. In the beginning, the Genesis story says that Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with God and each other. Adam walked with God in the cool of the garden. Adam and Eve were naked with each other and felt no shame (Genesis 2:25).
But then something changed. When Adam and Eve began to know both good and evil, they hid from God among the trees (Genesis 3:8). They also realized they were naked and sewed fig leaves to cover themselves (Genesis 3:7). They hid from God, and they also hid from each other. And we do the same thing.
It’s a huge risk to share the messy parts of yourself with another person. The other person could think less of you, or even reject you. But the alternative is that we live our lives without much intimacy. Other people might accept you, but deep down you know they are only accepting the part of you that you are showing them. The underlying thought is always there—if they really knew [fill in the blank], they would probably reject me.
Rejection is so scary, we often opt for partial connection and quasi-intimacy, rather than risk being rejected for who we truly are, warts and all.
The alternative is to find a person and take the risk to let that person see the real you—both the good and bad parts. Ideally this would be a safe person, someone who truly “gets grace” for themselves and others.
This is easier said than done. I laughed at myself the other day because sometimes I even have trouble being open and honest with my therapist — someone who I literally pay to help me work through the most difficult and messy parts of myself. It’s just a hard thing, which is why I’m trying to press into it.
- The next time you are tempted to say, “I’m fine,” and hide a difficult part of yourself, take a risk and open up.
- Share something personal with a trusted friend or family member and see what happens.
- Did the increased vulnerability make you feel more connected or less connected to that person?
By Joshua Hook
Joshua completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2010. He is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of North Texas. Through his writing and speaking, he helps men step forward into healing and growth. Follow Joshua’s blog and download his free e-book ‘A Journey of Healing and Growth’ at http://www.JoshuaNHook.com.