Discrepancies...

Every now and then, you need to take a good, hard look in the mirror... 

The fear most of us face when it comes to this challenge is not knowing whether or not we will like what we see. When we do like it, we feel good, right? We feel handsome or beautiful. We feel kind, smart, useful, needed. We feel loved, valued, and accepted.

The sad truth is most of us never even come close to that proverbial silver-backed glass with the intent of introspection. The idea of knowing ourselves is horrific. What if we hate what we see? What if we suddenly see what others see? Worst of all, what if we find out a truth we've been running from for a long time: the truth that the person we present ourselves to be to the outside world is not who we really are at our core? What then? What if our stories don't line up...

The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching

Losing Nanny. Getting married. Starting seminary. Getting fired from a job I loved. Each of these events have forced me into different levels of self-reflection. Participating in CPE this summer has been yet another one of those occurrences. There's nothing like sitting in a circle with several of your peers, having them critique not only your written work, but to an extent, your very person. It's terrifying to be in a room with people who are both charged with your care and with your growth. Yet as Henri Nouwen says, sometimes we need others to speak to us the truth of who we are. Hearing that truth, however, is another story.

Over the years, I've had several truths spoken to me by others—hard truths that were almost unbearable to hear. Friends let me know when I was being racist, sexist, classist, transphobic, or even homophobic. They let me know when I was being judgmental of others bodies, big or small. Of their wealth. Of their self-expression. They let me know when I was being a great talker but a horrible listener, when I made them feel diminished, walked on, stepped over, one-upped. The scariest part: I had no idea.

...My stories just weren't lining up...

There are some people out there who have gone to great efforts just to cover up the mirrors around them in hopes of never having to face their true selves. They hide behind fame, fortune, power, position, prestige. They shield themselves with technology, cubicle jobs, evenings and weekends spent at home alone watching TV, playing video games, or hunting for meaningless connection. I can say this because I have my own forms of shielding, some that are fairly trivial, and some that have done me real harm over the years, in both my relationship to others and to myself.

Ask yourself the hard question: what are the discrepancies in your story? Where are the differences between your outside and your inside? How are you working to make the two the same, or are you? If not, why not? What's the risk of being the same person when you're alone and when you're around others? Find people who see you for who you really are, both the good and the bad, and who speak the truth to you in love. This is the best gift you can offer yourself. One day, your stories will line up. Your true self will move from inside to out, and you know what... you'll be okay.