I’ve lately asked a sub-conscience question which is now creeping to the forefront of my mind. Why is this blog necessary? Why did I decide to put these words down for all to see, not even knowing who it is that sees? On the one hand it felt uncomfortable, if not painful, to hit the publish button for each of the 13 posts I have written, but on the other I was compelled. It was this type of survival or healing instinct–like when a person is craving bananas because they have a potassium deficiency. It reminds me of a story my dad often tells. His younger brother once pulled a frying pan of hot bacon grease on himself as a boy, his dad (my late grandpa) instantly took a towel and began rubbing the grease off his arms as he screamed. My grandma saw that large chunks of skin were also being pulled off with the grease so she forced him to stop, but when it was all said and done, the places where my grandpa had painfully rubbed off so much flesh were the only places that didn’t badly scar. This is how my blog has felt for me. With each confession–each doubt and fear expressed–I feel the layers of skin being peeled back as my soul cries out in pain. But something inside me lets it happen. Something inside says, “no, it’s good. It’s necessary.”
Today I watched a video of a TED Talk by a lady named Brene Brown. She gave an amazing speech on the importance of vulnerability. I have posted this video on my page “Honesty from Truth” as well. Two of her insights shook me to the core. The first was her definition of shame: “the fear of disconnection.” Shame has been a very powerful motivator in my life. Sometimes I wonder if it is the most powerful motivator in my life. Perhaps more than God’s law, more than love, more than a sense of commitment; shame has driven my every decision. I have always wondered why it has such a hold on me. I knew there must be something deeper going on, but I never had the wisdom to tie it to my fear of being alone before. It makes sense though. How many people air their dirty laundry at support group when they realize they will be accepted for doing so. We aren’t afraid to give up our honor, we’re afraid that when people find out what’s behind the curtain we’ll be shunned.
The second insight that rocked me was her definition of courage. She said that courage derives from the latin word cor meaning heart. Here’s the real kicker: the original definition meant to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. To tell the story of who I am with my whole heart–can anything be more daunting? Can anything be more important? I love how it specifies to not just tell one’s story, but “with the whole heart.” To not hold anything back. To be a true open book. No conditions. No limits. Just dig deep into my soul and show the world what I found–this is the kind of courage I crave. This is what drives me to pull the skin back and expose the nerves to their first sharp feel of air.
N.T. Wright says that sin is defined in the book of Romans not so much as wrong action, but wrong thinking. When I hear the word “courage” I usually picture the soldier running up the hill into battle, or the firefighter running into the burning house. But learning the word’s etymology has inspired a new picture for me. Every boy grows up dreaming of the heroic things he may do in his life, but at some point we grow up and realize that some of our heroes lacked the courage to remain faithful to their wives or spend time with their kids. It’s at that point we realize that real courage goes deeper than any societal exultation. I have pulled vehicles out of snow banks several times in my life and at no charge, but I have rarely initiated a hug with a friend. I have made the winning shot in a couple of basketball games, but my fiancee sometimes learns more about my life from reading my blog than from our conversations. For some reason I lose my words whenever she asks how I’m doing.
The sad truth is I’d rather be responsible for solving all of the world’s problems while sitting alone on the highest hill, than to be asked to start a conversation with each person in a room full of strangers. In short: I lack courage. I grew up emulating Michael Jordan and Albert Einstein. Perhaps I should have paid a little better attention to the smelly kid in class who would ask me (on many occasions) to hang out with him after school growing up, despite my continued disinterest. He must have had a heroic level of courage inside of him to be able to put himself out there like that. I may strive my whole life to have his courage to reach out despite my fear. But I know now that I will never be satisfied unless I do.
Forget saving the world. I’d be doing pretty good if I could simply go to work and never again hope I’ll be left alone that day. I have a story. I used to think I lacked the social creativity to tell it. But now I see I simply lack the courage to give it a try.