The Grey Matters – Honesty 1: The Fear
The Grey Matters was the landing spot for the creative and contemplative works that bounce around the confines of my head, as well as the inspirations that put them there. With the re-release of Viva, we decided to merge the blogs. Click here for more behind the meaning behind TGM.
Writing is a very cathartic process for me, and this is nowhere more evident than in the post that follows. I usually start out with a random idea, and it develops from there. In this instance, the process was almost therapeutic, in that words began to flow from depths I had not previously dared to go. It’s honest, if a bit dark, and I hope that you will accept my vulnerability here. It was a difficult post to write, and after several weeks of fighting with the decision to free it, I’ve decided to do so now. Enjoy.
Honesty plays many different roles in the mind and heart of an individual. It’s a tremendously complex and important piece of a relationship, and in general, relationships cannot survive without it. Authenticity and genuineness are key components of my pursuit in being a whole person. While there are many facets to both authenticity and genuineness, there is none more important than the subject of honesty. For part one, I’m pulling back the layers, to expose one of the greatest inhibitors to honesty – fear. This post will admittedly be a dark one; the next will be brighter.
I went through a situation a couple of years ago, where I was struggling. I had a lot of self-doubt, depression, questions without answers – all of this multiplied exponentially with the pressures of daily life and the presence of a newborn son. Suddenly, I felt the tremendous weight of fatherhood and manhood pressing down on me, and I…cracked. It was subtle at first, little lapses in judgment led to larger ones. Small changes in thought processes led to large changes in behavior. One day, as I gazed at myself in the mirror, I no longer recognized the person I’d become.
The first part of the fear in honesty – not knowing how to get back.
I spoke to friends – using broad and vague terms – letting them know I was struggling and could use a pick me up. I listened to their advice and made some subtle changes, but nothing seemed to help the demons in my head. Frustratingly, I made very little progress and returned to my bad habits. Shortly after that, the crack that was becoming more visible broke completely.
It was Christmas Eve, a miserable time to bring others into your misery. But there I was losing my grip and revealing my fears and concerns to my wife. It broke my heart to see her now included in my shattered existence. Up until then, the only thing I felt confident about was that at least my torment was only affecting me. Now it was tormenting others. It was more than I could take.
The second part if the fear in honesty – revealing myself to be much weaker than I was letting on.
The return trip to some of the friends I spoke to before was the lowest point I’d ever been in – up until that point (yes, it gets worse).
At first, many of them were encouraging, pushing me to take steps to get my life in order and back on track. I wasn’t convinced there was hope for my return, instead I was convinced my demise was imminent. (It’s dramatic, I know, but it’s absolutely how I felt. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt just like this.) Nonetheless, I made some changes and wrestled the demons in me for months – some I continue to wrestle today.
It is no sin to arrive at the finish line with a limp.
Men in our society, and true many women as well, find it off-putting to show weakness. We pride ourselves on being strong, able to take on all that life throws at us, to emerge from the rubble of our lives unscathed. It’s unfortunate though that we pretend this way, as life just really isn’t like that. As we work and strive and struggle through life, we pick up nicks and bruises along the way. In some of the tougher circumstances, we pick up scars. The scars may prove to be vulnerabilities in the future, but they’re also an example of survival.
The third part of the fear in honesty – some people won’t understand, and may walk away.
With all of the internal struggle, and all of the questions and pressures looming, perhaps the hardest part for me to handle was actually external. There was a sudden abandonment from many that I considered friends and loved ones that I was not at all prepared for. It hadn’t occurred to me that there would be people who would not be able to take the struggle I was facing. Further, I didn’t expect that they would respond not with an outward brushback, but rather with an evaporation of support.
It’s been very difficult to forgive and move on from a time in my life where I felt completely betrayed and abandoned by those I expected to help me. Instead of support and compassion, I was dispatched and pushed away. In fact, many of the words I held in confidence became fodder for rumors and gossip that far surpassed actual events. It’s time for me to be honest about it – when I let the church down, the church let me down in return. I had become a scandal, and one that needed to be quelled immediately. Under the guise of “go get yourself right with Jesus”, I was cast aside, left to my own devices. To this day, I’ve never been contacted by anyone from my old church – no communication that I didn’t first initiate.
It’s not my intention to use this arena to complain about the situation I found myself in. Nor is it entirely appropriate, as much of the circumstance that led to their reactions was admittedly self-inflicted. Nonetheless, I surmised that the worthlessness and self-doubt I had in myself was all so very true, and their unwillingness to be near me proved it. Yvette – this part hurts the worst – disoriented from a husband falling apart, felt the sting of abandonment herself. Words can’t contain the shame I feel from the instigation of that, nor the bitterness toward those that failed her as well.
Certainly there were friends and family that stood by me and fought for my family even when I was stubborn and hopeless. And to not recognize those people would do them a tremendous disservice. I’m whole again in part because of those people. To you, I can never thank you enough – you know who you are.
Who knows why people react the way they do when they’re faced with a potentially awkward and certainly difficult situation from someone they know? There are those that respond positively, like those I just mentioned. Then there are those that respond negatively, some through gossip (though I can’t truly think of a good reason), and some through abandonment (which makes a bit more sense to me).
I learned some things along the way. Initially, all I learned was filled with anger. But as time went on, I became more gracious in my thoughts toward those people. For some, I realized they were too inexperienced with my particular brand of struggle, and simply didn’t know how to react. Others may have felt outside of my circle of influence, and figured I would be helped by someone closer to me. (I don’t excuse that feeling, but I understand it.) And finally there were those that may have experienced a more complex reaction, the one I mentioned in a quote recently on another post: “When you become honest about your faults and fears, you sometimes unknowingly invite the demons of fear in others. Your inadequacies become less humble, less meek, and more threatening to those you love.” You can explain this on the surface very easily – fear of a bad influence – but I think it’s deeper than that. I believe that when we’re confronted with something difficult, we can’t help but imagine ourselves in their situation. The realization that we’re not all that different when it comes to temptations and insecurities can be extremely difficult to swallow. Before you’ve had the chance to put up your defenses, picturing yourself in that situation is more than you can handle. The rejection of yourself in the circumstance becomes a rejection of the circumstance outright, and the sufferer becomes the abandoned.
I know this to be true…because I’ve been the one who walked away from a friend in need. See, I’m no better than you.
The fourth part of the fear in honesty – some things you can’t take back.
There are things I can no longer say about myself truthfully. There are places I’ve gone and people I’ve met that I can’t block out of my memory. There are years of good memories that have a stain on them because of the final few months in that place. There’s are certain parts of a life that I can’t reclaim. There are also people who now have a less positive view of me – and I have no one to blame but myself.
Some would say it would have been easier to never have brought up the struggle. All of the above would have been avoided. Perhaps. But I can’t afford to think that way. And the positives I have gained from being truthful and engaging the struggle head on are irreplaceable as well. I’ll talk more about those in part two of this series.
There’s a fear in being honest about who you are deep inside, and being vulnerable about your weaknesses. You may not know how to get back. You may bring down your reputation, and show yourself as weak. People may walk away from your relationship. And you may never get back what you’ve lost.
Fear is a lousy lover. It betrays you more than people ever could. It kicks you when you’re down. Living in fear is not living at all.
Life without fear feels a lot more like…hope.
I think of myself as an open, non-judgmental sort of person. I believe that a friend could tell me anything, whether it be a circumstance, a feeling, a belief, etc., and I can be empathetic and understanding, without passing judgments on them. Because of the situation I went through, I am better equipped to walk in the shoes of others, to empathize and to meet them where they are. I know what it’s like to be angry, to think that no one cares and no one understands. I know what justification looks like, and just what a spiritual cancer that can become.
I also know that you’re not alone. Neither was I.
In the midst of a fight, I found out what real friendship looked like. I learned what it looked like to sacrifice yourself on the altar of the things you want – and what you think things should be like. Relationships in this life are complicated, and they all come with different challenges. But when you find someone you care about, whether it be a spouse or family member or friend, you stick with those people. You walk alongside them and you fight on their behalf. You carry them across the finish line when they can’t stand or walk on their own. And most of all, you’re honest with them. After all, you may never get another chance.