Who are you? Really. Ponder that for a moment. We all, no doubt, have familiar labels based on our relationships, vocation, accomplishments, hobbies, gender and age. These labels are important to communicating an understanding of who we are, but what about the uncomfortable labels that are part of us as well? Do we own those, too?
Do we live a life such that we are honest about our full humanity?
William Sloan Coffin once said, "You are all so interested in putting your best foot forward, when it is your other foot that is far more interesting."
If we are honest, we all have 'the other foot,' those labels that represent another part of who we are. Try on a few of these: divorced, addict, depressed, confused, failure, angry, hurtful, prejudiced... you get the idea. How willing are we to let others know the full truth?
Do we allow our children to see us struggle with our limitations? Can they ever learn to deal with failure if they don't see us fail and recover?
"Your children need a model of honesty. If you pretend you have no weaknesses, and cover them under masks and facades, your children will learn to do the same and the game will go on. Begin today to see, and accept, the real you beneath the role." - William Martin
As a former pastor, I recall yielding to a similar fallacy. My belief was that if I allowed too much of my humanity to be known, I would not be accepted, liked, loved by the people I served. The trick was not to look perfect, but rather to look just a little bit human, a slight bit flawed - but not reveal the true depth of brokenness that I felt and believed every day. Instead, I played a self-inflicted game of privacy and loneliness. It is impossible to have deep intimacy when we hide our complete selves.
It seems to me that when I truly listen to others, when I get the gift of connecting with other people on a deep level, we are all deeply broken and sincerely fearful of our true selves.
What say you?
The call of the Divine to us is one of acceptance and knowing, that no matter how bad we may believe we are, no matter how misunderstood or broken we may think ourselves to be, we are nonetheless loved. Ours must be a journey of progress, not perfection, of trying and failing and trying again. Ours is a tale of human imperfection and amazing accidental moments of goodness and badness. We are all of the labels - those we cherish and those we fear revealing.