The world is full of fronts. Each one of us protects our fragile self by putting up a façade, or wearing a mask. It shows those who interact with us that we are doing okay, that we are some kind of normal, that there is nothing to fear, that we are trustworthy, loyal, kind, happy. Whatever it is that they want us to be. Heaven forbid that the mask should slip or the façade begin to crumble, or the truth come out, that we are not okay, that we are anything but normal (what the heck is normal, anyway?) that we might be someone who will occasionally let you down, once or twice judge you or make a snide comment to a mutual friend that was about you and which was unkind (we regretted it later).
We don’t want you to know that sometimes we might need to lean on you, that we might well be someone you should be afraid of if you want to live in your sanitised theatre of perfection. We might latch onto you and tell you all our problems, and then not bother listening to your sage advice, leaving you feeling annoyed and put upon. We might be one of those awful people who sometimes gets it wrong, doesn’t hang on your every word, isn’t totally together, doesn’t always have the money to pay, isn’t quite making it in life. We might be, in actual fact, behind the slipping, cracking mask, a real, imperfect human being with problems.
We fling a lot of labels around these days, we call people “difficult,” “high maintenance,” “toxic,” and use it as reason to cut them out of our social circle, or our social media circle. Well, here’s a newsflash. People ARE difficult, high maintenance and often toxic. Including me. Including you. We mess up, we need help, we struggle, we think and do bad things. I know that there are those whom we really do have to keep away from, not everyone is able to be friends with everyone else, we are not all good for one another, and of course, some people really are abusive and vitriolic. But they are, thankfully, few and far between, and very broken themselves.
It’s exhausting to always be pretending. Perfection does not exist outside of God, and so to make out that we are anything close is always going to be a lie and a waste of energy. I wonder if we can then, think about admitting to one another that we are fractured and not whole. It’s difficult to trust one another, there is a danger that our vulnerabilities will be used against us, or even ridiculed by some. So yes, we need to guard ourselves a little. We don’t grab a stranger and tell them our life story (unless we are writers), but exercising caution is not the same as building great walls of defence or making a cobweb of fantasies that swirl around us like a vortex, till even we can’t remember what the truth is.
Jesus told us that the truth would set us free, and maybe one incarnation of that is when we give up all the exhausting pretence. Because doing that sets everyone around us free to do the same, doesn’t it? If I acknowledge that I’m not able, I don’t have time, I’m a little frightened, I am not sure this is helping, then you can start to not only accept those “weaknesses” in me, but also admit to having some of your own. And then we can begin to help each other and build one another up. And that’s where community begins.
© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017 Picture from Pixabay