Saturday, January 14, 2012

Get Real

I was talking with a friend of mine last evening who told me that a young person in their neighborhood committed suicide.  What a shock for the best friend to come in and find this person - and for the parents to realize that their beloved child was gone!  How everyone must wonder if things could have been different, if they missed any warning signs, if they could have said or done anything to prevent such a tragedy ... but all the "what ifs" in the world will not bring that precious youth back.  It is so very sad - and unfair - and wrenching.

The shocking news made me think very hard about something that I have said before, but which I think bears repeating.  Yes, we need to appreciate and show love to our children. Yes, we need to pray for them and teach them.  Yes, we need to show them the right way. Yes, we need to hug them and thank God for them.

But of all the things we need to do for our kids, I think the most important is to Get Real.  Primarily for ourselves ... but our kids will definitely benefit! 

In another conversation I had last evening with different folks, someone mentioned the "mask" that she puts on when dealing with people, the one that comes from a desire for others, even perfect strangers, to like her, to be impressed by her.  I remember that mask; I used it nearly constantly for many years.

Especially at church.

Or should I say masks - there are several.

Source of this image:
It took a lot of heartache and soul-searching to discover that the masks don't work. EVER. The "I've got it all together" mask succeeds in people putting you up on a pedestal.  Or it gives them the idea that you are so together that you wouldn't be interested in having a friend like them.  The "social" mask keeps things to a superficial level and never allows you to get close to anyone else, or vice versa.  The "religious" mask turns people off in droves because the watching world is completely 'weirded out' and dismisses an otherwise palatable message by your bizarre behavior (been there - on both sides of that).  Plus, it isolates you from the real world so that when something earth-shattering happens, (and it will; nobody is exempt) you don't have any foundation upon which to draw.  Just a bunch of rules and regulations, some platitudes that don't hold water, and a great deal of emptiness and misery.  

Sometimes I dust off one or two of those masks and use them, as if by habit - and every time I use them now, I end up hollow and unsatisfied inside.  

When I started to "get real" and be who I was instead of who I thought others wanted me to be, to be honest with myself (and with those closest to me) about my feelings, my failures, my foibles - life started to change not only for me but for my kids too. At first it was kind of awkward - I won't lie - after all, I'd spent so much time behind the masks that I didn't even know who I was, for starters.  And my kids were afraid to talk to me!!  But after a while, as I opened up to them and admitted that in a lot of things I was wrong to have said or done this or that specific thing, they came to understand that I was different - that they could trust me with bigger and bigger pieces of their lives, that it was safer to be with me.  

And God restored those relationships, gave me back my kids.  Is it perfect?  Well, no - I'd be crazy to think it was.  But is it better than before? can they come to me and talk to me more easily than they could?  You bet!  They understand that my new lifestyle of rigorous honesty is still in its beginning stages, that I'm changing, growing, maturing - and they're okay with that.  

My heart goes out to the parents of that young person whose life ended yesterday, to the friends and neighbors as well.  I have prayed for all of these people since last night.  

And I am all the more resolved to become more and more authentic.  I have the responsibility - to myself, to God, to others - to Get Real.

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