Nouwen: See yourself truthfully...

The following is an entry in Henri Nouwen's Inner Voice of Love entitled "See Yourself Truthfully":

You continue struggling to see your own truth. When people who know your heart well and love you dearly say that you are a child of God, that God has entered deeply into your being, and that you are offering much of God to others, you hear these statements as pep talks. You don't believe that these people are really seeing what they're saying. 

You have to start seeing yourself as your truthful friends see you. As long as you remain blind to your own truth, you keep putting yourself down and referring to everyone else as better, holier, and more loved than you are. You look up to everyone in whom you see goodness, beauty, and love because you do not see any of these qualities in yourself. As a result, you begin leaning on others without realizing that you have everything you need to stand on your own feet. 

You cannot force things, however. You cannot make yourself see what others see. You cannot fully claim yourself when parts of you are still wayward. You have to acknowledge where you are and affirm that place. You have to be willing to live your loneliness, your incompleteness, your lack of total incarnation fearlessly and trust that God will give you the people to keep showing you the truth of who you are. 

While at Gethsemani, I read this entry and in the midst of the monastic silence, I realized that Nouwen must have been writing to me (and to some of my other friends). I'm the type of person who both finds my identity in how others describe me and who struggles to hear the sincere truth when others share with me their insights of who I am. Talk about a conundrum.

We all exist in relationship. This is reality. Even those whose identify as extreme introverts still rely upon relationships of some sort to exist. But there are hard questions we must all ask: are the relationships in which we exist life-giving? Do we listen to what our friends and loved ones have to say to us when it's what we need to hear? Do we know how to sort out healthy truth from unhealthy deception? Are we really listening? Are our relationships crutches upon which we rely too heavily, or are they balanced? Do we foster relationships centered on mutuality, love, and respect? Do we surround ourselves with people who not only see the truth of who we are but are willing to share that truth with us when we can't see it ourselves?

My time at the Abbey made me realize why many of my past friendships have failed. Two reasons. One: I expect my friends to tell me what they see in me. Two: I don't always listen to what they have to say. You can imagine the stress that comes from this reality. Maybe you've even experienced it yourself, either as the friend expected to speak truth or as the friend unwilling to hear it.

In the grand scheme of things, we are all strong people, some more than others. Yet many perceive themselves as weak, needy, broken and irreparable. Maybe this is because very few of us know how to see ourselves truthfully. Maybe the mirrors into which we gaze are actually broken, or maybe we're simply looking into them wearing blindfolds, unable to see anything at all.

Yesterday, I turned 29. Over 200 friends, either via text, phone call, in-person-interaction, or Facebook sent their well-wishes. My father-in-law even remarked on how blessed I am to have so much love poured out on me. Last night, I was able to go out with my partner and several of my closest friends for Showtunes at Sidetrack, or my safe haven as I call it. By the end of the night, just by their sheer presence, I was able to see the truth of just how loved I am. Feeling so broken lately, I felt part of myself healed, mended. By their smiles, their laughs, their hugs, my friends helped me see truth about myself.

Who are the people in your life who show you truth? Are you able to give the same gift back to them? Think about the truth they show you. Find one and meditate on it. For a few minutes, an hour. If you need to, focus on that truth for the next week until you feel it begin to sink in, until you're able to see it in yourself without having it mirrored to you. Then, the next time you see that friend who spoke that truth to you, thank them. Love on them. Over time, on your own, you'll begin to really see yourself truthfully.