I just finished reading a book called “The Elephant in the Room” by Tommy Tomlinson. It is an autobiography about a Southern man who is morbidly obese (446 pounds) and his journey to losing weight. It is a very honest book that explores how he got to this place and what kept him there. It also is a kind of yearlong journal as he struggles to walk on a different path. What I love about the book is that there is no quick fix. No amazing new diet that completely turns his life around. It is simply a slow, long, hard walk to start making small changes, one step at a time, and slowly change his direction. At the end of the year (SPOILER ALERT) he has only lost 25 pounds. But, after reading through the whole book, you are able to marvel at what a victory that is and have hope that he can continue on this slow crawl towards better health. After reading the book which was published in 2017, I looked online to see if there were any updates on his journey. I found an interview that was done in January of 2019 and as of that date, he was continuing the course. The weight was still slowly coming off. No major dramatic losses, just one pound at a time.
There is something powerful about being real. About acknowledging that you are weak. You struggle. You have some major flaws that don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. There is something powerful about hearing about another person’s struggle with some besetting sin and finding out that the only way they have slowly conquered this sin is by very hard, very slow work. Two steps forward, one step back.
I think what makes it so impactful, so powerful, is that when we are real, we help others to not feel alone. And not feeling alone gives us hope. It is so easy to have a weakness and feel like you are the only one who struggles in this area. We feel like the wimp, the frail link, the failure. Everyone else seems to get along just fine and here we are, all alone in the corner, unable to overcome this particular problem. We must be a freak.
And then a friend whispers in your ear, I have that exact same problem! And suddenly your whole perspective changes. Oh, this is just another problem that is common to mankind. I’m not abnormal.
This is probably why young mothers love to gather together and compare notes. My baby does this weird thing, have you ever heard of that before? OH YES! My kid did the same thing when he was that age! And the mom gives a sigh of relief and then they compare notes and try to help each other figure out how to deal with the problem. This spirit of camaraderie is so uplifting. So encouraging.
We need to expand this Realness to other areas in our life. We need people in our lives that can tell us, I really struggle with eating more than I should. I have a hard time keeping away from the bad stuff on the internet. I really struggle with being kind to my spouse. I have an anger problem. I spend money that I don’t have because shopping cheers me up. I have a hard time not gossiping. I have a real problem with anxiety and depression…Things that we all struggle with, but we think we are struggling alone.
When someone shares something that they are struggling with, it encourages me, but when someone gives off the persona of being Perfect, it alienates me. I feel like you must belong to a higher level of humanness than me. You are in some special club that I can never be a part of. And it makes me withdraw into myself. I feel like I need to hide my imperfections from you since you obviously wouldn’t understand them.
I used to find people who gave off an “I’m perfect” persona were really irritating. Being around them just fueled my own insecurities. But, God has been showing me some things lately.
He’s been teaching me that there is no such thing as a perfect person. But, there are people who are so afraid of their imperfections and their unhealed wounds that they will do everything possible to keep them hidden. And they put on a show, an outward appearance of having everything together. It’s their own form of self-defense. And that’s ok. Facing your imperfections and your wounds is not easy and sometimes you are so busy surviving, you just don’t have any energy left over to try and tackle these deep issues.
So, to my people who have mastered the art of being real, thank you. Your willingness to be open about your problems is such an encouragement to me. And to my perfect friends, thank you for putting up with me and all my messiness. I’m hoping that some of my messiness will rub off on you and maybe some of your perfect habits will rub off on me. It’s a good exchange.