Small talk is rampant in the world in which we live. Walk down the halls of any public place, and the most frequently heard conversations are little more than the exchange of surface-level pleasantries. And for good reason. Surface level is safe, comfortable. Besides, we would rather give a speech, climb a mountain, or jump out of a plane than reveal what’s truly going on deep inside of us to another person. There are few things in life that evoke more fear and apprehension than being completely transparent with someone else.
And yet, there are few things in life that are more critical.
It’s hard to accept that we’re broken. That we’re incomplete, wounded, struggling, worried, or hurt. That we’ve failed, messed up, or blown it. Our culture demands perfection. Admitting the contrary is not only difficult, but it’s also risky. And so, we play it safe. We bury it. We hide it. We put on the shell, the facade, the false smile. And we fool people. We’re really good at convincing people that everything is ok, even when we’re dying inside.
Just like a cancer, our struggles sit deep inside of us. And like with cancer, we have two options when we come face-to-face with them: we can deal with them, or we can pretend that they don’t exist.
Confessing what we’re dealing with can be the most uncomfortable, counterintuitive thing. But in reality, the worst thing we can do with our struggles is nothing. I know. I did that for a long time. And after a young lifetime of stuffing, burying, ignoring, and not dealing, it brought me to the breaking point. When we feel like we can’t talk about what we’re going through and allow that shame or embarrassment to constrain us, it only results in isolation.
Dealing with our struggles can be very difficult, very humbling. It requires us to admit that something’s wrong, and that our world isn’t perfect. Living in denial as to their existence may seem easier initially, but that ease is generally short-lived. Like an ignored tumor, buried struggles will grow. Over time, they occupy more of our lives, our energy, our thoughts, until they consume us.
And our enemy loves it.
I think some of his favorite tools are shame, embarrassment, guilt, remorse, worry, pride, self-sufficiency, and fear. He tries to convince us that we’re the only ones that have gone through this, and that if we were to ever tell anyone about it, the humiliation would be unbearable.
And so, instead, we become trapped, paralyzed by the fear that someone should find out. I mean, what would they think of us? How would they react at our brokenness, at our failure, our struggle? We convince ourselves that at best they would walk away from us. At worst, broadcast our humiliation to others.
Despite that risk, it is a very good thing to talk to someone about what we’re going through. But that doesn’t mean that we need to trust everyone, to be an uncensored book for all to read. Those I’m close to know that I tend to be very open and honest with others about my life, because I know that it can be very beneficial to others so that they can know they’re not the only ones struggling with something. Even still, there are precious few people who know most of my story. And only one who knows it all.
It is a rare, precious thing to be able to entrust all of who you are, who you were, and who you hope to be, to the knowledge of another human being. Trust of that depth isn’t built overnight. It’s built one moment at a time. One conversation at a time.
We all need someone like that in our lives, and it is my prayer that God blesses you with that someone, just as He has me. It is also my prayer that God would enable you to be that person to someone else.
There is a tremendous freedom in being able to be transparent with someone else.