“I know you weren’t being 100% honest with me, but I’m not going to hold it against you. I’m not going to talk bad about you either. I want you to know that I’m going to extend my hand of friendship to you no matter what. I’ll meet you where you need me to meet you at.”
This wasn’t an easy conversation to have. I didn’t know how he was going to respond. The conversation could go one of two ways. It could either go well or it could end horribly. I reasoned that if it went well, maybe for the first time in his life, he would feel acceptance for who he really was. However, I was risking the potential loss of a long-time friend…… I decided that it was worth the risk.
He wasn’t a socio-path, nor was he a danger to others. On the contrary, he was quite broken. From the start, his life had not been easy. From what I could see, his relationship with his family was estranged. His composure was a bit eccentric and he would often find himself being ridiculed by his peers. I cannot fathom the amount of pain that his circumstances may have caused him. Some people are resilient when faced with this kind of pain, my friend was not one of these fortunate few.
I first noticed it when we were teens. I saw him make up stories of success and grandeur in attempt to win the approval of others. The stories started off small and harmless. However, the stories didn’t deliver the results that he desired. As time passed by the stories he told became more grandiose and outlandish. After a while, I could no longer have a conversation with him without hearing his outlandish tall-tales. It was almost as if he was thoroughly convinced that his lies were true… but they weren’t…
My heart hurts when I see people pretending to be someone, that they aren’t, hoping to win approval of others. The only thing worse than feeling unloved, is being loved and accepted for being someone that is not the real you.
I think that most of us can relate to being in a similar situation at some point in our lives. I know I can. Perhaps you haven’t told lies in an attempt to find acceptance. But have you ever had someone’s approval based on their perception of you, and deep inside you knew that they had no clue as to who you really were? I felt that way for the longest time. Many people knew me for my faith and friendliness. Many people saw me as a pillar of strength and ran to me for moral support during dark seasons of their life. What they did not know is that deep inside I was dying. I was sad, depressed, I had begun to deal with my stress in an unhealthy way, and I had no idea what I could do to dig myself out of the darkness that I was stuck in.
One of the most pivotal moments of my life was the moment that I decided to come clean. By coming clean, I’m talking about the moment that I chose to call those closest to me to tell them the truth about where I was at in life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I knew that it was a risky move. I didn’t know how they would respond and I could potentially lose some friendships that I hold dear to my heart. Much to my surprise, most of them chose to extend a hand of friendship and love me even when I was at my worst. My choice to becoming transparent and vulnerable opened the door and allowed me to be me for the first time in a long time. It also enabled me to receive the support that I needed to move forward to the next phase of my life.
This experience taught me two very important lessons:
- Embrace where you are at in life
This can be one of the most uncomfortable things that you will ever do. However, there will be no forward movement unless you take ownership of where you are currently at. The Living Bible paraphrase tell us in Jeremiah 6:14 “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there!” Simply put, you can’t ignore you wounds. If left untreated, you heart, mind, and soul will become one gangrenous mess. When you embrace your current place in life you are acknowledging that your current state is part of your story. But even better yet, you are simultaneously acknowledging it isn’t the end of your story.
- Embrace the possibility of a beautiful future
“Where there is no vision, the people perish…. “ Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)
An unpleasant circumstance will always try to fool you into believing that a beautiful future is not possible. It’s up to you whether you will believe that lie. So instead, I dare you to dream, and when you dream, dream big! Envision the life that you desire. Set goals. Share them someone that you trust. Take a step, spread your wings, and soar.
I wish the story about my friend would have a happier ending. I offered him friendship and acceptance based on his true self. I let him know that I saw through the mask he was wearing and would still love him anyhow. He chose to end the friendship. As painful as the story ends, I use it to reminder that it is way better to be loved for who I am, than for who I am not.
John Eli has spent over 15 years mentoring and coaching individuals in life skills, career transitions, and through organizational change. His resume includes pastoral care, behavioral health, and higher-education advising. From an early age, John recognized that God created him to bring hope, healing and encouragement to others. He is currently walking out his purpose by helping others confront, and work through, self-inflicted trauma. His ministry includes blogging, speaking, and personal development coaching. He currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, mini-schnauzer and an antique piano whom he calls, “Betty.”