“Change starts with voices.” — Tony Reali
Over the weekend, a long-time friend from my school days launched a blog, and left her comfort zone in the process. An occasion like this is a good reminder of the benefits and hurdles to being an open book.
We all have our own insecurities and fears, issues and hangups. Despite this fact, we all tend to believe ours are unique — not in the “you’re unique and special!” kinda way, but in the “everyone has issues, but man, do *you* have ISSUES!” way. As a result, the impulse to hide our weaknesses keeps us quiet, afraid to be judged by our flaws instead of our strengths. This, like nearly everything Fear has to say, is a lie used by the Enemy to keep us from speaking up, because he knows three things that he desperately wants us to forget/ignore/be ignorant of:
1) Talking about our “stuff” is therapeutic — it starts us moving in the direction away from the cloak of Shame and towards other people in our community who can provide the care and encouragement and perspectives needed to begin healing/overcoming.
2) At the same time, speaking up lets those in our network of connections who are feeling the exact same things know that they are not alone either. It also models for them what it looks like to operate as the subject of our life’s sentence, and not its object: we do things to and with our fears, not the other way around. This helps others begin doing #1 in their own lives.
3) The more we do this, the easier it becomes, creating a flywheel effect of healing and empowerment. These are the things that leave an impact, much as light does to the darkness, and salt does to the meal. (Matt. 5:13-15)
The path that led me to giving a public speech (!!) about the emotional effects of my getting fired was a long and hard one. During my year of unemployment, I was utterly terrified to talk about it, as if giving words to it gave material substance to the awful feelings of shame and doubt about myself as a professional, as a husband, as a father, and as a man. No doubt this played a part in my remaining unemployed for so long, as the tension of protecting something — even if completely understandable — inevitably shows up in the pressurized moment of a job interview. Even after returning to work, it would be some time before I was comfortable enough to talk about it. Before I arrived at that place, there were moments of painful embarrassment, like the time an opposing defense attorney brought up what had happened as a means of shaming me into a more favorable plea bargain offer. (Yes, that really happened … and it was the closest I’ve ever come to being in a physical altercation as an adult.)
It’s tempting to keep our insecurities hidden and explain it as an act of being private rather than afraid. But, as my TEDxDayton comrade Scot Ganow explained, the value of privacy isn’t in keeping things secret, per se. Rather, it is in the power to decide the terms (what, when, how, etc) of disclosure. Being private doesn’t necessarily mean being quiet, but being afraid always does.
When it comes to the things we are most insecure about, the benefits of taking the risks of exposing ourselves to others are too great to let Fear win. God has given us all journeys full of both triumphs and failures, and voices with which to share them. Let us use them all so that others may find courage to do likewise.