“There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.” Thomas Merton
What does it mean to find our true selves? Maybe this sounds a little weird to you. If we have to be honest, don’t we all long to be real and know that who we are and how we really feel is okay? I know I say I do. The truth is I’m scared to death of it. I’m scared of being rejected, looking stupid or not having people like me. I’m comfortable with the familiar false self that I parade around in, trying to appear I have it all together. I got comfortable growing up seeking to please others so I would feel better about myself. If others were happy with me then I felt happy, or so I thought. I have found myself tired and longing to break free of this false self that can be such a phony and so suffocating. I have learned well the art of hiding and how to pretend. As David Benner puts it, “We discover the art of packaging our self. We learn that even if we feel afraid, we can appear to be brave. We also learn to cloak hate with apparent love, anger with apparent calm and indifference with apparent sympathy. In short, we learn how to present our self in the best possible light – a light designed to create a favorable impression and maintain our self-esteem.”
So how do we begin to break free of these masks we wear to cover up our insecurities and weaknesses? For me, it is one baby step at a time, each day stepping out in faith and taking risks. Something that is helping me to be authentic is to ask myself if I am telling the truth in the moment. It begins by my choosing to be conscious. I was at a teaching and training class today that was part of a ministry called the Befriender Ministry. They asked us in the big room how we were feeling being there. I thought, “what will people think of me if I say I am scared? Will they interpret me as wimpy, insecure, weak?” As the group went around the circle, people were sharing that they were “excited, expectant, curious”. As it got closer to me, my heart began to race. What will it be – truth or to attempt to look good? I decided to tell the truth and shared that I was scared to be there but also excited(okay well I threw in excited to be on the safe side!). A funny thing happened. Each person after me also expressed how they were scared. Scared of not being good at it, not getting it, being inadequate or in over their heads. I had to smile. It was so much more connecting to know I was not alone. I was happy I took the risk to tell the truth and not cover up or hide my fear. It wasn’t a huge risk, but a little one that made a big difference to creating safety and a feeling of connectedness. I want to remember this and other little victories along the way when I am tempted to think that pretending to have it all together gets me more than being real.
More to come on learning to be real and how this connects us to God….