“Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
— Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
So I’m at a conference in California this week. Which is awesome because the content is great and I’m learning a ton and I think I’m coming back changed and encouraged.
But it’s also adjacent to the outer rims of hell for an introvert.
Because in between all of our sessions there is an expectation that the attendees talk to one another. Which makes sense because you’ve got a collection of people from different backgrounds, locations and walks of life. It’s only natural to take that opportunity to network and connect.
Except for an introvert, regularly scheduled small talk with a bunch of strangers is not exactly fun. It’s exhausting.
And there is an interesting factor at play when you get a bunch of people like this together (pastors, artists, creatives of all different sorts). We all want to impress one another really badly. So this small talk can turn into an “impress-your-neighbor” exercise.
“Yeah I planted a church last year and 12 weeks in we were averaging 2300 people at our Sunday gatherings and now we’re just growing and changing the world, you know, but it’s hard, too, because balancing that success with my family time is a challenge because my 2 daughters — one is a genius and the other is a world class rhythmic gymnast — are so busy and my model wife is constantly traveling around the world to her next photo shoot and it’s just really difficult to find a good European mechanic in Beverly Hills that will service my Ferrari at a decent price.”
I hate that guy immediately. I know Jesus says that I should love him, but something makes me think even Jesus would want to kick that guys in the kneecap (and hopefully he would turn the other kneecap as well).
Ok, I don’t really hate the guy. I just don’t find him all that interesting. Because no one likes a story with no tension or conflict. And that guy’s life sounds like everything goes his way.
Here’s the hard truth when I think about it, though. I may not have a Ferrari or resounding business success or children who never whine or struggle. But there’s something in me that wants others to view my life that way. I want to look like I have everything together. I only post things on Facebook or Twitter that will make myself look good. In some strange way I don’t want to be that guy, but I don’t want others to see the cracks in my life, either.
There is a lie that fear tells us. Fear tells us that the struggle and pain belong in the darkness. That the conflict and the failure and the just-can’t-seem-to-get-it-togetherness belongs in the shadows because if we let others see the real us — the one who lost his patience with his kids this morning or the one who was a jerk to her annoying coworker or the one who acted selfishly with his spouse or the one who really struggles to pay her bills — then what will eventually follow is rejection and horror.
Because surely the broadcast version of me is so much more interesting than the real me.
But it’s just not true.
What Dr. Brown reveals in Daring Greatly is that this lie of fear simply keeps us from experiencing the love and acceptance we really crave.
When we are vulnerable enough and have the courage to deal with the conflict, the black marks, the tension and the downfall in our lives, we don’t drive others away. We invite them in. When we refuse to hide those parts of our lives behind some glossy veneer, then we reveal the more interesting stories about ourselves.
We make more engaging connections and have much better conversations.
What we think will make us misunderstood and lead to rejection instead leads to connection and understanding. It doesn’t ostracize us, it makes us likable and real.
We just have to have the courage to let the light in.
This is the amazing truth of vulnerability. Joseph Campbell, the great writer and lecturer once said it this way: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
So may you be bold and courageous enough to not hide your real self in the shadows or cower behind some false self. Your life isn’t perfect and neither is mine. May we be honest and vulnerable.
May we allow our cracks to show and let the light shine in.
There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
— Anthem by Leonard Cohen