Be Honest With and To Yourself

To me, there is no more sad state in which to exist than to be lying to yourself, as well as lying to everyone else in your world as to your true nature. So you're gay. And? So you're bi. And? So you're overweight. What of it? So you're (fill in the blank: too dark, too light, mixed, too girly, too manly, lacking the physique or the face of a model, too thin, too thick, too young, too old). Who cares? There is only one you in the entire world: be an authentic you. You are the only one who can be you. What others think of you being the best you that you can be is absolutely, entirely, utterly and inexcusably irrelevant.

Before you can accomplish this goal, however, you must see yourself truthfully. Henri Nouwen, attempting to console and comfort himself in some of the darkest periods of his life, writes: "You continue struggling to see your own truth. When people who know your heart well and love you dearly . . . [you] don't believe that these people are really seeing what they are saying. You have to start seeing yourself as your truthful friends see you."1 This may not be an easy task, especially if you are depressed, or are self-loathing. I understand that condition all too well. Let me help you past it.

First, the opinions of others are like noses, everybody has one and they are all different. No two people on earth agree completely on every single issue, in all of the complexities of said issue, known to humanity. We are all attempting our best in this life and not one among us has all the answers to all the questions posed by our existence. Second, people in general all have issues of their own, and thus they have no ultimate right to judge you. Nouwen writes: "As long as you remain blind to your own truth, you keep putting yourself down and referring to everyone else as better, holier, and more loved than you are."2 This should never be. We are, each one of us, as human as the next human being.

If you fear being your authentic self, because of the opinions of others, then what you are doing is allowing and enabling people to force you into a lie. How is that right? You say, "Well, so and so will be angry or depressed or upset or confused if I tell them what I am really feeling inside, and so I am going to remain in this lie." That is your prerogative, no doubt, but you will be miserable for the rest of your life. You will never live an authentic and fulfilling life as long as you fear what others think of you. Odd, also, how these ones whom you fear will judge you do not fear what you think of them. How did that happen? How did that table so easily turn to their advantage? That is not at all fair -- not at all.


Of course I am writing rather ambiguously and this is intentional. I want these words to reach a vast majority of people who are wrestling with their true selves. This post is not merely about sexuality, or gender identity, but also about self-perception, fear, and shame. Since when did shame ever liberate anyone? All shame has ever accomplished is convincing its victim that he or she is, at one's core, a terrible and unworthy individual. Shame is not a motivating disposition but a destroyer. Shame will never aid you to becoming authentic; but shame's design is to demean, degrade, and dehumanize.

So, perhaps right now you cannot see how incredible you are, as you are: "You cannot make yourself see what others see," writes Nouwen. "You cannot fully claim yourself when parts of you are still wayward. You have to acknowledge where you are and affirm that place."3 Arriving at the place in my life where the opinions of others do not dictate my own conscience took years: nearly two years in therapy, at least a year or more after that in putting into practice what I had learned, and then, even recently, having to remind myself that, if I intend to live my life by what others think, then which others shall I choose? For, you see, not everyone agrees as to how I should live my life. Apply this to your own context.

Not everyone will agree as to how you express your inner self. What should you do, then, since not all are in agreement? What is, to me, painfully obvious is that you should be honest with and to yourself first. If you cannot be honest even with your own conscience then you cannot be honest with family, with friends, with God. If God already knows your inner truth, and loves you just the same, then why on earth would you allow a lesser being to judge you according to lesser standards? If you have friends who love you intensely, who affirm and encourage you, then how could you not share with them your true self? There will always -- always -- be people who will not like you, appreciate you, or love you. Do not live a lie for such people. Be honest with and to yourself and watch for those who love you for it.

__________

1 Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (New York: Image Books, 1998), 53.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., 53-54.

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ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.