The people who inspire me most are the ones brave enough to share their stories. We’ve all got a story, but most of us are too afraid to show our true selves and share all we’ve been through. I believe in using discernment to decide what to express, how soon, and to whom… But allowing others to see our pain, our brokenness, and the journey from that darkness can be the most freeing thing we’ve ever done.
I’m a single mom and sole business owner with no family near… I have been guilty of becoming accustomed to being an island. Recently, I had a major health scare. I had cancer 14 years ago and have been clear ever since… until this summer. I had a test come up questionable and had to have a biopsy to determine if the cancer had come back. I went into a panic of what would happen to my daughter, to my practice and co-workers… what would happen to my daughter and I financially. The heaviness consumed me.
Health issues have a lot of “hurry-up-and-wait” times. A week between the first test and funky result, two weeks till the biopsy, another week for results… A month of anxiety and prayer desperate for this to pass. During that time, I initially reeled in denial, but then chose to share my struggle with people I trusted. A small circle of friends and a group at church… each one of them a blessing in my life. The outpouring of prayer and positivity lifted my spirits. Typically, I retreat into seclusion… hiding from others and myself, if I’m honest, feeling like I can’t burden anyone with my problems. Ruminating that I don’t have a loving partner to lean on. It only leads to more loneliness and isolation. Thankfully, the biopsy came back normal! A way I’ve seen self-growth this year has been in reaching out in hard times, in being vulnerable.
I was raised to learn that sensitivity was weakness… that you kept struggles private, secret. The more I grow in my faith and in life, the more I know how limiting that is. Recently, I was visiting my family and came across journals I had written back in high school. I have no memory of writing them, but the situations are clear in my mind. I wrote about wishing I was someone else, hating my body, feeling lonely, struggling with coping. It broke my heart for my younger self, but also validated that what I remember was accurate.
Our pastor said in today’s sermon, that we are the loneliest generation ever. I found that so sad… and so odd since we’re more “connected” than ever. How real is what we share? Do we show our genuine selves or just the highlight reels? Maybe it’s just a higher-tech way of hiding and filtering our true selves. I wonder if the empathy seemingly lacking in our society comes from this pressure to hide every flaw. The appearance of perfection trumps being authentic.
It’s not easy to put your pain and struggles out there… the fear of judgement and rejection is real! It opens up the opportunity for someone to exit out… but it also opens up the opportunity for a deeper connection. True intimacy. I’ve been single for a few years now and have gone on many first dates. A few that have lasted a bit longer, but nothing that’s been long-term.
I used to pray for God to send me someone to have in my life. He sent plenty! Nobody that I felt a lasting connection with, though. I began to realize that it’s possible to date but connecting is very different. Now, I pray for God to send a relationship with depth. Someone who’s taken time to dig deep and work on themself. Someone who’s worked to heal the pain of their past, in the ways that I’ve worked (and continue to work) on mine. A man of faith, integrity, and grit… someone who makes me belly laugh… someone to be an example of a good man to my daughter. Someone who will be vulnerable with me while protecting each other’s hearts. Until then, I will practice being transparent with the people closest to me. To make a habit of sharing my story to help someone through a similar struggle. To “encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thess 5:11