When it comes down to it, we all want to belong. We want to feel accepted and a part of something bigger than us. That desire can take many different paths–from conquering teenage popularity, to acceptance into a sorority or fraternity, to finding like-minded people who share a passion of yours, to exclusive friendships, to simply finding someone who is safe and will listen. Some of those places of belonging feel safer than others…some tide us over until we really discover who we are and find a place of acceptance and love for our true selves.
There is a satisfaction and a rest when you discover and accept who you are–giftings, personality, tendencies. I love seeing women be thankful for how God made them instead of trying to be like someone else. Then, true serving and living and loving and leadership has opportunity to flow from them. They can then become a place where others feel safe to share and to belong. We create places of belonging for others when we relax ourselves.
I am attracted to “real” people. Real people who can laugh at themselves and know their hangups, people who are not intimidated by me and can encourage me instead of competing with me, people who listen and who share honestly about their fears, people who speak truth about situations instead of skirting around them with what seems proper. “Real” people seem to be few and far between, but when I meet them, I already feel a kindred spirit with them.
I try to be a “real” person by disarming all the subtleties that keep us from really knowing one another, but I fail a lot. It is easy to be intimidated by the airs others put on (usually due to insecurities), to feel less than, or to feel unsafe to be oneself. The truth is, one person has to choose to be one’s real self first. If it is not your choice to do so, you may miss out on the real richness of relationships. You may choose to do so when the other person does not and look weird or feel stupid…I have found the risk is worth it (though it does not feel good every time).
Women are…complicated. We spend a lot of time assuming what other people think and what they are about and what they think about us. This builds walls that are almost unconquerable.
In this day of social media where the walls can be the fortresses of perfect looking family pictures, status updates that seem better than ours and more intentional than ours, we can easily give up and choose to shut one another out because we don’t really see the real people. Yet, we are deceived into creating unreal personas of people…whether they intend for us to or not.
We complicate relationships in public, too. We can be intimidated by what people have or what people do or the assumed status that people create. We can allow our fears to turn into walls that look like being “better than” others. We find myriad ways of shutting people out to self-protect. We find our “core” group and stick with them allowing no one else in for fear that we lose footing. So many assumptions and so little truth going on in our head.
To be real, we must first know ourselves. This takes time and courage and other people to help us discover. Usually it takes adversity…and a lot of it. It takes facing our adversity and pain head on instead of relying on the things we turn to that can numb our pain (shopping, drinking, eating, entertainment, drugs, achievement, working out, etc). It is not easy to be real, but it is freeing to be real.
We also must be willing to know others for who they are and enter their messy places. Once we face our messiness, the messiness of others is less scary. We do not have to fix those places in others, but we do need to be willing to be present with them as they sort it out.
Truthfully, the only reason I can be real is because I have come to know the One who made me. I have faced the fact that I am so so so different from Him (in my character), and I need Him. In my difference from Him, I only seek myself. I am completely broken as a human, and He knows that I am bound by my rebellion against His goodness. I have enslaved myself in greed, in lust, in trying to be better but failing, in thinking that I am the center of the universe. He sent His son, Jesus, to rescue me from me. He took the penalty for all my selfishness and rebellion, showed me favor I do not deserve, accepted me, made me a part of Him, gave me a new heart where I can choose to be like Him in character and goodness, and put me at peace with God. At peace with God, I am free to rest in Him and be myself. There is no one or nothing than can intimidate me in this freedom. The wonderful thing, is that I am free to share that with others. When I think on these truths and learn more about Him and what it means to trust Him instead of myself, I want to be a “real” person all the time and invite others to be real, too.