Honesty and Healing

"Honesty has a way of humbling us.... As I've been honest about the bruised and broken parts of myself, the openness has become a doorway for God's healing." ~ Jonathan Merritt

I read the above quote this morning on someone else's blog and it reminded me of how much I've missed my own. Over the last couple of years, I have become more and more actively engaged with Facebook and less engaged with my blog. I used to write often here about my deep thoughts and emotions. I processed many a struggle here. I blogged about books I was reading and the thoughts and questions those books provoked. I've blogged about health issues (my blog has become a worldwide resource for Morton's Neuroma sufferers and I get dozens of hits on those posts every day). I've shared treatment updates and blogged about my role as caregiver since my husband (in 2007) and mother-in-law (in 2008) were both diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). I've used my blog as a place to pay tribute to people I've loved and express heartache over people I've lost. On a lighter side, I've reviewed restaurants and shared recipes. This blog has been a public journal at times.

I get pretty deep on Facebook (deeper than some are comfortable with there). As recently as a couple of nights ago, my sweet husband shook his head at one of the conversations on my timeline and said, "I just can't believe you guys have this dialog on a public forum." And I explained to him that the conversation he was referring to wasn't exactly public. It was limited to my friends. And then we both laughed. Ahem ... my 880 friends. But, the truth is, I'm more comfortable than ever with revealing myself to others. I'm much more likely to carry self-disclosure to an extreme than to struggle with erecting walls of self-protection. And even though I go into deep waters at times on Facebook, it's just not the same. I miss blogging.

I didn't have the emotional energy to blog while I was writing my last book. Almost all of my reflection and emotional processing went into what is now 250 pages of my heart and soul; a book I'm proud of and so thankful God helped me find the courage to write. I don't know if there will be a third book one day. I didn't know there would be a second until I felt inspired to start writing. And I didn't write either out of a quest for my own healing. I genuinely wanted to help others. But God knew that my writing would propel me to the next level of my own personal growth. And, in retrospect, I clearly see the role writing has played in my overcoming.

Obviously, being open and honest has been cathartic and empowering. But possibly even more important than that, I have faced my worst fears in writing about the pain in my life; the fear of rejection and disapproval. And while overcoming these two fears is an ongoing challenge, I believe I am winning the battle. I am not allowing those fears to paralyze me anymore.

I realized very recently that I have outgrown my previous desperate need to be loved by everyone. Through a private process (inside my own head and heart) of coming to terms with a specific situation, I have discovered (to my own surprise) that I no longer crave love or friendship that is dependent upon my conformity to other people's expectations of me. I haven't stopped loving anybody. I've just stopped needing them to love me back.

I have arrived at this conclusion: If you reject me as I am or because of who I am (including my passion for sharing my heart and convictions), I will still love you, but I can accept your rejection without feeling my heart is being ripped out. Even though a specific struggle has prompted these thoughts, I'm not saying this to any one person in particular. It's an epiphany of self-discovery. It's broad and general. It's about liberation and the breaking of more chains. And it feels amazing. I know God has had me on a path to this place for a long time.

I've very recently had the blessing of some renewed friendships on Facebook. And because the second book is so fresh, there has been fresh reflection on the past and on the experiences that I have written about. A few times, after I have posted something that could be deemed "controversial," I've had the thought hit my mind, "Ah-oh, maybe I shouldn't have shared that.... What if I lose those friends or family members because they disapprove of me all over again?" And each time, I've felt a check. A voice (perhaps the Holy Spirit) has whispered back to me, "Have you come this far only to retreat back into fear?"

My intent is never to hurt people. I believe that friends who know my heart know this about me. And I am so grateful for those friends. If I had to pinpoint one thing about John and his love for me that means the most, it would be that he knows my heart and never judges my motives as malicious or hurtful -- even when I am at my worst. I'm not saying my heart is completely pure or that I don't have stuff in my heart that needs to go. But I don't have malice or bitterness in my heart toward anyone. And the most healing words that have come to me through John over the last decade have been, "I know your heart."

I've always longed for someone to know my heart. My heart has been misunderstood and misjudged by so many throughout my life. And because of that I've gone through much of my life feeling like I have to prove myself worthy, earn value in people's lives by pleasing and performing well. But once you get a true taste of love that is selfless and not contingent upon your stellar performance, it changes you. It liberates you. It's God's love. And the more we are able to show this kind of redeeming love to each other, the more empowered we will be to spread the Gospel effectively to unbelievers.

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." ~ John13:35

As Jonathan Merritt writes, (A Thread Called Grace):

In order to release my secrets, I must uncurl my white-knuckled fingers from deep desires:

My desire to be perfect. My desire to be liked. My desire to be in control. My desire to be successful.

Without releasing these desires, shame will keep my secrets locked up and convince me they can never be disclosed. It forces me to forge masks for myself and hide under them. Whether one faces an eating disorder, a marriage failure, insecurities and inadequacies, or just something done that they don't feel free enough to share with others, shame can trap us in the mire of our secrets and steal from us the gift of openness with those we love.

"Shame keeps us from telling our own stories and prevents us from listening to others tell their stories," says Brené Brown. "We silence our voices and keep our secrets out of the fear of disconnection." In the end, shame steals the very thing it promises: meaningful, authentic connections with others. Pursuing a life of honesty means to reveal who I truly am and assert that my story too belongs at the table.

I had the privilege of being interviewed yesterday for an upcoming newspaper article about the next Women's Resource Center fundraiser (Fun and Fur Fashion Show). As I said in that interview and have stated in my book, I am thankful for my journey. I don't regret the past that has shaped me. My life has not always been easy. I've suffered and I've caused suffering. I've been defeated and I've triumphed. I'm humbled by the reality of what my life could have been today and what it is because of God's grace, mercy and redeeming love. 

I shared with the interviewer how I struggled, as I initially wrote Through My Eyes, with the shame-based fear of being thought of as pathetic or weak because I accepted abuse as my lot in life for so long. But today I am honored to attach my face and my story to the fight against domestic abuse and violence. I am not ashamed to identify with other victims or to claim the adversities I have forged through. And I will not retreat into fear or allow my voice to be silenced. 

I will continue to be brave; as brave as God helps me to be, and share my heart openly and honestly.