I’ve lost friends to dishonesty in the past; being of a mind that “if they lied to me about that; what else don’t I know?” The deep-rooted trust issues that I contend with make forming relationships very difficult.
Yet I’m a hypocrite. I skirt around issues, refuse to open up and show all the guarded traits that would make me run a mile if other people exhibited them.
But being honest is hard. And I'm not talking about the day to day decent, truthful, “yes, your bum does look big in that” kind of honesty. I’m talking about being truly open; nothing hidden, nothing suppressed. Because when you do that you are making yourself fragile and vulnerable around others.
I had a secret. I don’t anymore. For the past eleven and a half years I’d held it inside, locked in a box and hidden from the world. I was safe with it there. If no one could see it, no one could talk about it and it couldn't hurt me.
Or so I told myself. The truth was that by locking that box inside my head I was keeping the secret safe. Not letting the world tarnish it, not allowing anything good in my life to diminish it in any way.
I made a decision a few weeks ago to let people in. To open up. It was one of the scariest and hardest things I have ever done.
Being me; I chose email as the means of communication. If there’s ever a way to avoid saying things out loud and to put them in writing instead, I’ll take it.
It’s cheating but it means that I can think longer about what I want to say. I can change my mind halfway through and edit sentences; I can chicken out completely (even after getting it all out) and delete the whole outpouring before it ever reaches the intended recipient. I did that a few times!
Eventually though, I took a deep breath and pressed ‘send’.
I wish I could say that I immediately felt relieved. That there was a weight off my shoulders after finally unburdening. But the truth is I actually felt worse. Despite receiving a reply pretty quickly and being assured that things were going to be ok, I was safe etc; I couldn't shake the feeling that I would have been better off keeping that box locked up. It’s taken more than two weeks since for me to feel even remotely comfortable that my secret isn't secret anymore.
But I’m over the first hurdle now. And I can move forwards. For the first time since I started coming to church I feel like I’m really supposed to be there. I’m not an imposter. I no longer feel like I’m hiding part of myself. By opening up - even the little bit that I have - I have made a huge space in myself that was quickly filled with God’s love and compassion.
I can’t thank Richard and Becca enough for their support. Pastoral care via email and text message - brilliant!
Honesty involves learning how to express openly to another person the fullness of inner experience, by setting aside all psychological defences. And to do that, the emotional pain that caused those defences to come into being in the first place has to be reconciled. The original pain may have been long in the past but social interactions and everyday experiences can lead to resurfacing of the pain. The essence of a therapeutic relationship is to confront the pain directly, without running from it, so that it can be healed and transformed.
ARTICLE WRITTEN FOR NOVEMBER 2012 MAGAZINE