There is something in all of us that's raw, painful, complicated, growing, beautiful--and we rarely show it. It would be embarrassing, it could hurt our reputation, it might be too heart-on-the-sleeve, or "too much information."
Vulnerability is a buzz word many talk about. We can all dip our toe in the shallow end, but how about the deep end? No way, I'll stick with the subtle references to "hard times" and "difficult situations." I'll talk about my impatience and neat-freak tendencies but not the real ugly parts.
We attended a small group years ago, and the couple that led the discussion each week was great. Seriously, they were really nice people, and I never felt like I knew them. Here's what I mean...
We talked about the challenges couples face as they merge lives. The example they would reference when talking about the clashing of backgrounds and personalities was always based around him not being a handyman and how her father was great at fixing and building things.
I get it, it's a decent illustration about differences in family origins, but no one gets divorced over not knowing how to use a handsaw. After a while I was left thinking these people didn't have real problems, or this was simply not the best use of our time as we wanted to grow in authentic relationship.
We are helping no one by holding back. "Good story sets the moral compass of the heart," Robert McKee once said. And good story has real conflict, it has the character becoming something, it is tragic and triumphant--it isn't a watered down, G-rated children's book.
What's the best way to help me in my relationships? Tell me what you've done to destroy or hurt yours. How can I succeed? Tell me how you've failed. The reality is that the alternative, light version isn't all that interesting nor helpful.
There is a right way and a wrong way, though, to be vulnerable. I've sat in a room with people sharing things for what I believe to be the shock factor alone. If your story is a puffed up retelling of the good ole' days, you're probably missing the point.
But if it's a humble account of how who you were became who you are through the refining fires of this life, I would love to pull up a chair and listen for hours as I learn and grow too. That's "good story," and that's what helps set all of our moral compasses to True North.
I love Donald Miller's memoirs, particularly Blue Like Jazz and Scary Close. He does in his books what I aim to do in my blog. In simple words, through great stories, with shameless honesty, he writes about "non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality."
From Scary Close he writes,
"Sometimes the story we're telling the world isn't half as endearing as the one that lives inside us...
...I began to wonder what life would be like if I dropped the act and began to trust that being myself would be enough to get the love I needed...
...It costs personal fear to be authentic but the reward is integrity, and by that I mean a soul fully integrated, no difference between his act and his actual person...
...So I wrote, I wrote as though God thought my voice mattered. I wrote because I believed a human story was beautiful, no matter how small the human was. I wrote because I didn't make myself, God did. And I wrote like he's invited me to share my true 'self' with the world..."
I can't say it better. I'll continue to tell the story inside of me, I'll try to keep dropping the act, to feel my soul fully integrated, to share my true self with the world...and hope it serves others well.