I have a serious love/hate relationship with writing; it’s something that I love to do, and something that (for some crazy reason) I feel called to do… the part that I hate is where I press the “publish” button. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ve probably noticed that the things I write about are “personal.” I write about my own life, things that are deeply significant to me; the things that weigh heavy on my heart, and the things that keep me up at night.
When I start to write something I believe God has put on my heart to share, there is something that often stands in my way. It is the voice in my head that whispers, “this is too personal to share on a blog, where anyone could read it… this is something you should reserve for your journal, or maybe a conversation with a really close friend (but probably not… it’s probably too personal for that).” It’s the fear that maybe I share too much, maybe I’m too vulnerable with my writing.
And more often than I would like to admit, those thoughts cause me to press the delete button on my laptop, and try to come up with something less “personal” to write about.
But recently, I took the time to stop and ask myself why I write, why I pour out my heart on this weird thing called a “blog,” for whoever cares to read it… What’s the goal or purpose of it all?
And the answer? The answer is two little words; me too.
There’s a quote by C.S. Lewis that says:
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’
There is a degree of connection that occurs when two people learn that they share something in common; a favorite band, the same hometown, a mutual friend… The moment when someone says, “Hey, me too!” is the moment where friendships can be born.
But what I’m getting at is something deeper than that.
We are a culture that is very connected, as social media allows us to bring hundreds of “friends” into even the most mundane aspects of our lives. We share our “highlight reels,” and think that “likes” equate to being known. As Christians, we share bible verses and inspirational quotes, hoping to “be a light.” These things are all well and good. Social media has allowed me to keep in touch with a number of people I would’ve otherwise been completely disconnected from, and I’ve been greatly encouraged by reading a timely verse or quote on my Facebook news feed from time to time.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with these things, there is a risk of being placated by them. You see, we are a generation that is very connected, giving the illusion of being known, while in reality many of us feel incredibly alone.
For all the technological advances in the past decade, the desire for human connectedness remains. Ten years ago, slightly over one out of 10 Americans self-identified as lonely. Today, that number has doubled – a paradoxical reality in the full swing of the social media age. (Barna Group)
In this age of social media, we risk settling for sharing neatly packaged quotes with a world that really needs to hear our hearts. And, as a whole, I fear we’ve been deceived into believing that what the world wants and needs is the “fireside and hot cocoa devotionals,” the #blessed, and the highlights of how great a life with Jesus is. Don’t get me wrong, these things are great! But we cannot let ourselves lose sight of the fact that what we really need is EACH OTHER.
The power of sharing our stories and our struggles became very apparent to me one night during the women’s small group that I have the extreme honor of leading. This particular group of ladies had been meeting on a weekly basis for around 6 months, getting to know each other and sharing our lives, but always with a degree of guardedness and hesitation. But that night, one of the girls had noticed a hint of a common thread throughout the group, and was bold enough to ask the question; “who here has struggled with ?” We looked around the room as, one by one, every single hand was raised. It was a beautiful moment of vulnerability and authenticity, a moment of, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!”
The voice of shame seeks to convince us that we are the only ones who struggle with an issue, whether it be depression, addiction, fear, or any number of the daily struggles that we face living in a fallen world. And I believe that shame is one of the devil’s greatest tools to keep us silent and disconnected from relationships that can help us grow and heal.
“Shame makes us feel like we are different – like we are the only ones.” Brene Brown
I once read that sharing our struggles is like turning on the light for someone else who is stuck in the darkness. I believe that when we share our struggles and our pain from a place of strength and hope, we open the door for others who are hurting and struggling to also find hope… and we don’t have to look far to recognize that we are living in a world that is desperately in need of hope. When we share our struggles, we shatter the lies that shame whispers, and shine a light on the reality that we are all in this beautiful mess together.
“It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are… because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier… for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own.” Frederick Buechner
Interestingly enough, some of the people who have made me feel known on the deepest level were people who have never actually met me. They were the musicians whose songs gave life to the things I didn’t know how to express, the things that I didn’t think anyone else could understand. They were the authors who shared stories that I could relate to on a level that I didn’t think was possible. They were people who spoke hope into my darkness through what they bravely shared with the world.
Sharing our stories can be an intimidating and vulnerable thing to do, but I also believe that it is incredibly powerful. The thing about sharing our stories is that it’s not about us, it’s not about being known ourselves. It’s about normalizing pain and struggles; it’s about being willing to turn on the light so that someone else can see that they are not alone.
“It has been said that real freedom is about setting others free. In the spirit of that powerful definition, my greatest hope is that we will reach out across our differences and through our shame to share our stories and to connect with those who need to hear, ‘You are not alone.'” Brene Brown