She sits in Bible study every week, saying very little. In a room full of people, she feels alone, overlooked, unknown. No one tries to get acquainted with her. She listens and chit-chats and goes on her way, wondering if anyone notices her leaving.
But does no one ask because they think she likes to keep to herself? Are they respecting her privacy? Are they fearful to tread on an area she hasn't appeared to give access to?
I listened to a room full of women talk about how they can't give up 100% of themselves, about how it's too risky, too scary. What happens if they're misunderstood or judged or rejected? Why take that kind of chance?
And my heart hurt. Sadness overcame. Nothing good is ever gained by giving nothing, is it? Are we protecting ourselves from pain or building walls that keep out the possibility of solid, strong, meaningful relationships?
I know the fear of opening up, of giving away too much of yourself. I feel it every time I start typing a post for this blog. What might people think? How will they interpret what I say? What past experiences will shape their response? What if they get a bad impression of me?
It's a danger, I know, but nearly every time I am honest, either online or in person, people react in a positive way, saying things like, That's exactly how I feel. It's not just me? So I'm not a horrible Christian if struggle with this? It's nice to know I'm not alone. And then we can talk about how to handle the issue or just find hope from a compassionate friend.
I hear women talk often about their lack of true connection with others and it grieves me. Satan knows if we start holding each other up, we'll be more effective for God. He's not about to let that happen, so he fills our minds with fear. He suggests, She won't understand. She doesn't struggle with things like you do. You're just weak. You can't let anybody know that about you. You're the only one who has a problem with that.
But it's all a lie. Being vulnerable actually strengthens us because it opens us up for friendships which can help us stand. I find when I open up, even about my most ugly thoughts or inadequacies, people listen empathetically. When we don't let people in, they don't know how to help. If they know you struggle with negative self talk, or spending too much time on the computer, or depression, they can pray for you or check up on you or hold you up when you don't have it in you.
But if they don't know . . . how can they be any help at all?
We want others to reach out to us, to pursue us, to care enough to ask, and I suppose they should, but how can they read our minds? You wouldn't expect a doctor to figure out what's wrong with you by observation alone. We have to tell our symptoms, how we're feeling, our concerns, our problems. We let doctors probe. Often we give up embarrassing information to get to the heart of our issue. Yet we expect people to take a look at our exterior and decide what we need emotionally or spiritually. We want them to sense our uneasiness or anxiety or loneliness and approach us with care and concern. But how can they get to the heart of an issue by observation alone?
I suggest the best friendships are formed not when one comes to us, but when we humbly reach out. When we admit to our own need or weakness or confusion, we give people someone to relate to.
And a reason to care.
If nobody knows me, isn't that MY fault? Aren't I the only one with control over what is known?
Now I'm not saying we need to share our life story with every person we encounter, but when you find someone trustworthy, why not let them in? Why not share openly? Why not put yourself in the position to find a friend?
Is it hard for you to open yourself up to be known?
Photo Credit: Denis Collette...!!!