“You always act so perfect all of the time.”
A dear friend recently told me during an unexpected conversation. We sat on old, dusty couch in a dimly-lit hallway next to the women’s bathroom.
Her dark eyes were questioning, troubled. Insecurity lay behind her carefully-guarded expression.
I laughed off her comment awkwardly, not quite sure how to respond. I felt confused.
Honestly? Until that moment, this was how I thought I wanted to be perceived: “perfect.”
But as the day wore on, my friend’s words continually ran through my mind.
You always act so perfect all of the time.
An ache began to form in my heart—that ache that grows and expands in your chest as God whispers truth into your heart.
I’ve always tried to act more “spiritual” than I actually am. Like I know all of the answers and have it all together. Part of it comes from the expectations and stereotypes of being a missionary kid, and part of it comes from my own expectations for myself.
I like to show the edited version of my story. The perfect version, which is usually also the fake version. I feel more comfortable showing others the fairytale version of my life. But over the weeks following that conversation with my friend, I realized that when I try to look more spiritual, I actually make myself look less human.
I realized that trying to look spiritual is like trying to climb up to a pedestal we can never quite reach. We sweat and groan and reach. But we just end up looking tired, appearing foolish, and feeling discouraged.
I’m always delighted when other people show me the unedited versions of their stories. When they brave through the not-so-fairytale chapters in their lives and show the messiness and clutter of jumbled up words, thoughts, hopes, and dreams. I realize I’m able to love them more deeply and genuinely when I see the real them.
But still, I fear the question “what will other people think of me?” because I think if they hear the unedited version of my story, then they might not like what they hear. When I show the real me, I might not be accepted or admired.
Yesterday, I read this quote from a book I’m reading with my mom and sister.
“I can only be loved to the level where I’m known.”
If I’m known for being “perfect” and for having it all together, that is the level and extent to which I will be known and loved, the unreal me. And striving to keep a standard of “perfection” is neither possible nor freeing. I’m always acting, faking, striving. I’m always discontent and disconnected.
But as I’m learning to share the unedited version of my story—as I’m learning to be with real with God and with others—He’s revealed these three things to me:
- When we share our unedited stories, our bonds of friendship with others are strengthened, not broken.
- When we share our failures and mess-ups, we simultaneously give others permission to do the same.
- When we share the real us, the broken us, the everything-is-totally-not-together us, God’s grace becomes clearer and more distinct between the lines, pages, and chapters of our stories.