Own Your Story
Yesterday, I began reading the book What Keeps You Up at Night by Pete Wilson. Pete was the pastor of my church in Nashville and has been one of my favorite authors for several years. So, when he came out with a book about finding peace in the midst of chasing your dreams, you better believe I jumped on it.
In the first chapter, he said, "Consider this: In a typical day, how many of the people you interact with mention their greatest fear or something they're struggling with? I would guess the answer, at least for most of us, is 'not many' or 'none'." This quote struck me because, lately, I've been thinking about the topic of vulnerability and sharing our fears. In all of my relationships, I've always found that opening up begets opening up, and shutting down only invites more closed doors.
Think about your closest friends. What was the moment that you knew they were a keeper, a friend for the long haul? For me, most of those moments can be pinpointed to a single conversation when one or both of us decided to share something personal. Secrets bond us together because, when someone knows our secrets, they have the responsibility of protecting something of value: our hearts. That's why it hurts so badly when vulnerability goes awry and our hearts get trampled. And yet, in order to make or keep a relationship strong, secrets are the glue.
When I say secrets, I don't necessarily mean some deep dark reality that no one on earth knows. I'm talking about personal details: the truth about how you feel, the honest answer to the "how are you" question. The ability to articulate what's really going on and the willingness to share it are the fundamental communication skills that take a relationship from surface level to more. If you've ever been in a relationship full of walls, you know the painful feeling of pulling teeth to get someone to open up to you.
And yet, it's so easy to blame the other person for the communication issues in the relationship. We are rarely ever introspective about what we are bringing to the table. What happens when we, ourselves, refuse to be open, when we continue to paint the picture that everything is perfectly fine and our lives are as flawless as our Instagram filters? We deepen the issue. Don't get me wrong, I fully understand the fact that social media can be a detractor when it comes to vulnerability, but I also view it as the most desperate cry for intimacy that most people make. Really think about it - we long for connection so deeply that we want people to approve our coffee mug and devotional. I think we should see that as an invitation to try harder, not a reason to click the like button and scroll by.
"This tendency often leads us to conclude during our times of anxiety and difficulty, that we must be weird, messed up, or otherwise unusual. after all, everybody else is doing well -- they told you so!...We assume, based on incomplete knowledge, that we are the only ones experiencing conflict or adversity."- Pete Wilson
Great art and great intimacy come from great vulnerability. This truth has been reinforced throughout my life in music, dance, leadership, and relationships. Yet, we typically run from vulnerability because it appears terrifying. We feel like we are ruining someone else's great day by being honest about our bad one, or we don't want to seem like we're bragging when we have a genuinely awesome opportunity. But that's always the way it is. Your best day will be someone else's worst, but a relationship with a strong foundation should be able to weather the storm of differing phases of life.
I love the image that the quote below paints: the idea that we are running away from darkness instead of embracing the one thing that can bring healing.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brene Brown
I want to learn how to own my story, not just live it. I don't want to look back on a season of life and say, "I was just trying to get by. I was floating." I don't want to live with the regret of being too fearful to explore the darkness or the paralysis of asking "what if". The only way to change the pattern is to take the leap. We have to stop waiting on the other person to open up and pave the way. If you take the risk and embrace your own vulnerability, they will be more likely to follow suit. But, if we continue to pray for their revelation instead of creating one of our own, our stories won't be any more ours in the future than they are today.