I had a very deep and examining talk with a good friend yesterday over coffee. He is very honest and not afraid to call me out on my flaws, weaknesses and areas of my character that are stuck or need growth. He is older than me and a man who possesses a lot of wisdom. He’s a man of faith and his values are properly situated, not of this world but of spirit.
At once it is very uncomfortable to hear things about yourself that ring true and aren’t all favorable. On the other hand, his point of view is never one of judgment or criticism, but comes from a place of genuine care and love for me as a brother and friend. I would be foolish to not listen, to not reflect and to not consider the truth in his observations. We often get so lost inside our small worlds and our own point of view that it is easy to lose clarity. It hurts to hear things that about yourself that are deeply rooted traits that are flawed.
I recently watched a Tony Robbins video from one of his seminars in which he spent the better part of 2 hours dissecting the psychology of a woman in her late 60’s to uncover all her deepest character traits and subconscious belief systems that had framed her entire life and kept her stifled, limited and unhappy. All this as she stood in front of 5,000 people and had the most intimate details of her life, heart and mind nakedly exposed in front of the crowd. Granted, she was there for transformation and the crowd was extremely empathetic and supportive, but that’s still a really scary thing to do.
While I know myself to be a really loving and open person, I know that deep down I have some very deep-seated insecurities and fears that hold me back from opening up and being as connected as I should be with God, myself and others. That saddens me. Some of it is from things that were cemented into my psyche as a child, some of it from difficult experiences I’ve had in life and some of it comes from what I know as an adult to be the reality of the world we live in that often does not appreciate, accept or feel comfortable with vulnerability or the matters of the heart.
One of the things that frustrates me about the world and mankind in general is that most people just aren’t willing to be honest with themselves or those around them. People try so hard to pretend that they have it together. It is as though there’s an unwritten rule that if you aren’t happy or upbeat it is your responsibility to hide it from the world and pretend that everything is good. Most people certainly do not welcome honesty in these areas–even when they are around the people they consider to be close friends. Pain, insecurities and personal struggles are to be discussed either not at all or within the confines of counseling or therapy.
Rather than our all being honest with the fact that WE ALL have lots of weaknesses and insecurities that plague us, we just hide them and ask others not to bring us down with their problems or issues. The end result of this is usually that the issues become more pronounced, deeper seated and they end up both defining and limiting our lives until we die. How much healthier and happier would we be if we acknowledged our weaknesses and welcomed others to open up about them as well?
This of course would require that we welcome people around us to be open and honest instead of making them feel as though those are 3rd rail topics. Regretfully, I’ve shied away from a few situations in life where I could have been a better friend to some of the people I’ve been friends with who have gone through some difficult struggles, particularly with addiction. We don’t want the problem to become ours and the burden of having to spend our precious time and energy helping others with things we find to be unsavory.
On the other hand, who wouldn’t want the love and support of their own friends, family or even strangers when they themselves are going through a crisis? In the Bible there are countless verses that speak to the value of loving each other selflessly. Here are a few that in my mind are particularly noteworthy and powerful:
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.“
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
-1 Peter 4:8
As I’ve grown over the years in heart, wisdom and maturity I’ve tried to be a better friend to those around me to exhibit this type of love. My heart yearns for it in return and I find that either due to the walls that I build around myself so that I won’t be judged or hurt or the walls others build around themselves that there is a deep divide between the hearts of men–one that we create ourselves to protect ourselves from judgment and rejection. Really, it is a shame and I wish it were otherwise. In the end, all we do is deny ourselves the honesty, love and acceptance that we all so deeply desire.
What do we gain from the facade that we place before the world and others? For myself, I can only change this attitude for myself and hopefully shine a light on others to inspire them to do the same. But do I have the heart and the courage to do so? If the choice is love with the risk of some judgment and rejection vs. hiding in a shell with the certainty of unfulfilled hopes, lingering pain and a longing heart, what do we do? The question I ask myself, the question I ask you and the question for everyone in this world is…why not love???