I’m not going to lie, this post almost didn’t happen. Baby New Year ran me over like a goddamn freight train — I hope 2016 was gentler to you in her arrival. But, as I read on Tumblr yesterday, “You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good” (Jerry West). So here we are.
I originally wanted to write about waiting and what it means to actively wait and the trials and triumphs surrounding that, but in the last few days I’ve felt it weighing more on me to talk about the importance of honesty and telling the truth. Mind you this idea came to me literally two days ago so sorry if it’s a little rough around the edges.
Okay so honesty. Most of my friends will tell you that I’m a pretty straight shooter, blunt almost to a fault. Almost. I will always tell you if you look bad in something, if you’ve said something stupid, if I like or dislike you, etc. Sometimes it goes really well, sometimes I get into fights, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that being honest requires courage, and I’ve found that it’s way easier to be honest when someone asks you “How does this fit me?” than it is to tell someone how they’ve hurt you.
I’ve been the first kind of honest my whole life. The second kind, the kind that requires some level of emotional vulnerability, I’m just starting to learn. I read an article a while ago by Mark Manson about how we all have emotional baggage and how dating or romantic relationships in particular can reveal the emotional baggage we might be carrying. The article noted that if someone stands us up for a business meeting, it’s annoying, but by 8 pm we’ve lost ourselves in wine and Netflix and forgotten all about it. But if someone stands us up for a date, all of a sudden we’re on the phone with our best friends for hours, or sitting in our therapist’s office crying about how our parents divorced when we were 8 and we never saw our mom much after that. (Too close to home? I told you guys, no holds barred in 2016).
To me this is why being emotionally honest and ergo emotionally vulnerable seems so daunting. What if we’re rejected? And in that rejection we hear the echoes of a thousand rejections we’ve faced before that, all screaming in our ears that we are unlovable? What if we’re invalidated? And in that invalidation our biggest fears are confirmed that we are a waste of space? That we don’t matter, our existence is without consequence?
On top of all of this, emotional honesty is twofold in that it requires that we first be honest with ourselves before we can be honest with anyone else. And I can’t decide what’s more difficult, diving inward to discover and confront the ugly underbelly of your Self, or finding the courage to voice that ugly underbelly to another human being without knowing how it will be received. It’s all terrifying, really.
But I also don’t think it’s possible to have healthy relationships without it. There can be no trust built without someone first deciding to go out on a limb. There can be no bonding fostered without deciding to confront the fear of unveiling yourself. I picture it like trying to adhere a sticker to something without first peeling off the protective backing. We all realize pretty quickly that it’s not gonna work.
In my own life, I have been so lucky to have made two best friends with whom I can practice complete emotional vulnerability, and God has been so gracious to show me that I can also practice with Him. That’s not to say that I’m now great at it, or even good at it. But I have areas where I can try, and my hope would be that you find some place, a safe place, where you can try as well. Be it a friend’s couch, a school auditorium that doubles as a church on the weekends, a therapist’s office decorated like Anthropologie, wherever. I firmly believe there is no other way we can be and relate to each other. That being said, do not go to into your boss’s office and start crying about how her constructive criticism in that meeting this morning reminded you of how your parents always felt that you were never good enough lol. Don’t be silly. Again, find safe spaces. And honestly sometimes it happens that you think you’ve found a safe place in someone and they show themselves to be completely unsafe. That’s the hard thing about practice, it’s trial and error, and there’s no guarantee that at some point you won’t get hurt. In fact I would probably go the opposite way and guarantee that you will get hurt in the process. But that gives room for healing, as well as more growth, connection, understanding, and learning. I feel like at the end, it’s worth it.