We all want desperately to be known. We want to be understood and appreciated because people fully know who we are. They see our quirks and foibles and love us anyway. They rightly discern our problem areas and are able to tactfully address them with us. This is the point in relationships that we are all striving for and can be continually disappointed when we can’t achieve it.
I have felt the sting of frustration when it seems somebody hasn’t understood me. When a friend has taken something I said out of context and used it to hurt me or to nurse their own hurts. When my husband finishes my sentences and it becomes clear we were not on the same page. When I confront a friend about a conflict only to find out I had it all wrong. It’s hurtful when we realize somebody doesn’t “know” us or we didn’t know them as well as we thought we did.
For a long time I have run from being known. I have taken comfort in being mysterious or vague. I have deflected with humor. I have carefully crafted an image of me that looked much different from the woman inside. The pain of being misunderstood felt so great, but I began to prefer it to the pain of being known and rejected.
I think my story is common. I once was in a relationship where I resisted my urge to self-protect and instead chose vulnerablity. I let down my guard because I felt loved and valued. And then it went wrong. The pain of that rejection was so great that sometimes it still haunts me. I remember feeling like if this person knew me and didn’t want me, then I didn’t want me either. I wanted to be somebody else who people would like and who wouldn’t ever be hurt again. I created a wall around myself to keep other people out and to keep the real me hidden enough that I couldn’t be damaged. But the damage done by hiding away from love was a high price to pay.
Some of us have felt rejection in dating relationships, some from spouses, some from close friends, and some from our own parents. Whoever it was, they taught us that we were safer when we were hiding. And they were right- we were safer from rejection, but a life where nobody really knows us hardly feels like life at all.
I have learned to take the risks required of those who are known. I have become part of a community of friends where honesty is valued and grace is given. Even if I wanted to stay hidden, my own weaknesses and needs have pushed me out into the open. When we had a miscarriage after years of infertility a woman I hardly knew from our church showed up at my door with flowers. Another friend brought a meal that consisted of “every happy food” she could find at the grocery store. It was a meal of total, wonderful, randomness that spoke greatly of how well she knew me and knew how to remind me that there were still happy things in the world. And after the birth of our fourth child I tried so hard to put out a perception that I was doing fine, but the women who dropped meals off on my porch for weeks after the official church meals had stopped knew me better than that. Crisis has forced me into revealing my inadequacies and feeling confident that these people loved me allowed me to even feel safe in those vulnerable moments.
. . .To finish reading this piece, click through to A Musing Maralee. . .