Don’t believe the lies

One of my greatest struggles in life has been overcoming lies.  Family passes lies on to us, society spreads lies as truth, the whispers in our heads push lies, and frequently, we give the lies to ourselves.

Over the years, I have faced many lies.  Some of them come out of the abuse I experienced.  Others, I feel, are straight from the devil who comes to “steal, kill, and destroy.”  If we believe the lies, we become less than we are meant to be.  If we believe the lies, we will move away from our destiny and full potential.  We begin living the lies as truth, and the devil laughs at his win.

Some of the lies I have experienced…

  • ”You have no value.”
  • ”You are unloved.”
  • ”You are damaged goods.”
  • ”No one will ever love you.”
  • ”You don’t deserve anything good.”
  • ”You are too far gone for healing or to be saved.”
  • ”You will not amount to anything.”

It can be easy to believe these lies especially if your home lacks love.  Unfortunately, these lies can grow into even more destructive lies.  Eventually, “you have no value” turns to “you might as well be dead” or “no one would care if you were dead.”

Please know, all of these are absolute lies.  Everyone has value.  You have value.  Sometimes we are born into families that don’t understand love or cannot love.  That is on them.  That is their need for healing.  You have value and a purpose.  You are loved!

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   John 3:16-17 ESV

If you don’t believe Jesus loves you or that it is too cliche, try asking Him.  If you wonder where he has been, please remember that He frequently works through people.  Is there someone in your life who has been trying to reach out to you?  Maybe a grandmother that puts Bible verses in your birthday cards.  Or an aunt who invites you to Sunday School.  Or a neighbor who invites you to church events.  Maybe you have been too sad to see them?  Please don’t give up.  You are worth the fight.

Why Me?

All of us will at some point have an experience that causes us to question God. In fact, life may be filled with one challenge after another. We could lose a spouse, be raised in an abusive home, have an abusive spouse, have a chronic or terminal disease, lose a child. The list of horrible things that can happen to us goes on and on. So the question that comes up is “why would God allow this to happen to me?”

I struggled with this question for decades. If God is love and supposedly loves me, why did he allow such horrible things to happen to me? First of all, no matter what happens in fairy tales with people living happily ever after, our world is not safe. In fact, our world is messy and can be down right dangerous. And God has allowed us to live as independent creatures with free will. As people, we get to make our own choices. God does not want mindless followers who are programmed to obedience. He wants followers who seek after Him as He has sought after us. Followers who long to know Him and are willing to obey His rules. (BTW, His rules are designed for our own benefit.)

Unfortunately, in a world of free will, people are going to follow their own desires regardless of the impact on others. They will live to achieve personal pleasure at the expense, and sometimes, even the destruction of others. Sometimes, their wake of destruction is completely unknown to them; and sadly, some people find pleasure in the destruction and are quite intentional about hurting others.

While God allows the consequences of free will, He is not absent from your life. You may not know He is there or even want Him there, but there He is all the same. God is the God of comfort. He will never leave us to suffer on our own. He will not forsake us especially if we seek Him. I experienced this in a very tangible way as a child. And with the perspective of age and time, I can see His hand of protection over me even while I was suffering. And He has been my strength and guide through the healing process. Yes, I may have suffered, but He did not leave me there. Nor did He leave me trapped in the hell of memories.

John Mark McMillan has a song that expresses this truth along with a beautiful melody, “When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me.” He loves us with an immense love and does not leave us in a state of suffering. He is our hope and our rescuer.

This video shares the song and John Mark McMillan’s story behind the song. I hope you find the same peace in it that I do.

Hard to Hear

Even though my childhood abuse is decades behind me, it is still difficult for me to share with others. Some of that is from reliving horrible memories and emotions created by my past; however, my fear in sharing has more to do with rejection. I have been rejected by family members, friends, members of support groups and even people from church.

My story is difficult to hear, and it makes most people uncomfortable. This is a natural and appropriate reaction. We should be uncomfortable with people sexually assaulting children; but we should not be uncomfortable with the person who was the child. What happened to me as a child was horrible, yes. But we shouldn’t shut down and run away from it. It should outrage us that stuff like this happens. It should create a desire in us to help others – to stop this kind of behavior and protect our children.

Sadly, my story is not unique. If you are in a room with 8 people, statistically two women and one man in that group have been sexually assaulted as a child. With so many people affected by this crime, you would think we would do more to stop it. Instead, we cover it up and hope no one finds out. Imagine how many lives are impacted by abuse. It would be a different world if our children could grow up in homes of love instead of darkness and despair. The effects of abuse are far reaching.

Above I used the phrase “sexually assaulted” to try to help drive home a truth. Saying someone was sexually abused lessons the reality of their experience. If someone is attacked and raped on the street, it is sexual assault. If the same thing happens in the home, suddenly we label it as abuse or incest. It is still rape. The only difference between being raped by a complete stranger and a family member is, with the family member, you mix in emotions of betrayal and have the destruction of trust. It is devastating to have the person who is supposed to be your protector be your assailant.

Hard Conversations

I know many people have had bad experiences with churches over the years. Sadly, many people walk away from the church due to those experiences. And not only do they walk away from the church, they end up walking away fromJesus believing that their experience is a reflection of Jesus. The truth is Jesus is about love and saving people from their brokenness. His goal is restoration of mankind’s hearts and the restoration of all nations to God.

The tough reality of the church is that it is filled with all kinds of people. There are people that truly understand God’s message to the opposite end of the spectrum with people who really don’t understand. There are people that follow God’s guidance and live out of His grace and truth. And there are others who live out of their own truth; and frequently, they extend their judgement rather than God’s grace.

So why bring this up in a blog about overcoming the destruction of abuse? Well, while I love my church and understand that the church is supposed to be full of people who can walk the road of life with us, some times the church fails. One area that is tough for the church family is interacting with hurting people. I’m not talking about mild hurts. These are people who feel like their souls are crushed,and they struggle with the basics of life because of their overwhelming emotional pain. There are many reasons why people struggle with other people’s pain. Some times they just don’t understand and have no idea how to react. Some times it reminds them of their own pain. I think church leaders understand this tension so they try to steer clear. Unfortunately, this leaves a significant portion of their congregations with no biblical guidance on dealing with their deep hurt. It also builds on to an already existing shame. “My experience was so awful, we can’t even talk about it.” Or worse, “it really is just me or wouldn’t our pastor address this?” And again even worse, the people inflicting the abuse lose another opportunity to hear about the destruction they are leaving in their wake.

When I first started working through this topic, I was surprised at how deep the church had hurt me. Again, it was not intentional. The outcome for me was another level of shame and rejection. It was so upsetting to me that I couldn’t write about it. So, I started with the following fictional story that touches on several experiences I encountered at church in, again, a fictional setting. I hope it helps open eyes to why we can’t just ignore the hard conversations especially in our churches.

The Baptism

The auditorium was filled with smiling faces. Friends and family members came to join in celebrating God’s glorious works in the lives of those there to be baptized. Celebrating broken souls that had accepted God’s grace and would publicly announce their trust and gratitude and the work He had already done to transform their lives from old to new.

The first gentleman stepped forward with a mix of timidity and anticipation. He began his story of moving in a different way than his parents’ faith. Sharing his story of a life of drugs and sex that led him to a place of ruin. He was left with nothing – fired from his job, divorced, and basically living in the streets. Then at the mission, he encountered Jesus. He was beyond words to explain his experience as tears rolled down his cheeks. He shared how the mission staff accepted him and loved him even in his darkest moment. He gave his heart to Jesus, and he had seen blessing after blessing ever since. While the consequences of his past remained, he had a new hope and a fresh start.

The room filled with the sounds of applause and a few cheers as all celebrated the glory of God.

After his baptism was complete, the next person stepped up to the microphone. She was an obviously shy young woman of about thirty. The notes in her hand were already mangled due to her nervous folding and twisting. The pastor looked at her with a reassuring smile and encouraged her to speak. She looked out at the sea of faces and then quickly back at her notes. Her eyes fixed on the page, she began to read with a faltering voice. She told of her childhood and how her father raped her repeatedly for years. She also shared how she lived in hopelessness and complete despair for years to follow.

It was good that she kept her head down to read. Looking over the crowd, many shifted uncomfortably in their chairs. Some stopped listening at the word “raped” and retreated within themselves not wanting to hear. Others were horrified at her story. “No one should ever share such things.” “The shame of her poor family!” “She must have brought this on herself. The tramp!” “Oh, that she would do that to her poor mother.” Then still others who shared the same nightmare tried desperately to sink within themselves terrified that others might notice the truth on their own faces – that they might be exposed. Desperate to leave the room, they were frozen in their seats.

The young woman finished her story with tears mixed with shame and gratitude. She looked out at the room of grave faces. There was no applause – no cheers. Her story of God’s glory had been completely missed. She could see their judgement. She could hear the labels that they would mark her with for as long as they knew her. She saw friends who refused to look at her. She thought some of these friends might share a similar past as her, but she was always afraid to ask. Now she knew for certain; and from now on, they would try to avoid her in order to avoid their own pain. Their friendships would be no more.

She looked down at her chest expecting to see a giant scarlet “I”. Oh, the things she would say if her spirit wasn’t crushed. “I was only a child. I did not ask for this. My father was supposed to be my hero and my protector – not my tormentor. I was innocent before all of this happened. And I begged over and over again for it to stop. Instead, I was threatened into submission. This was not my choice. Children do not ask to be raped. I do not deserve your condemnation.”  Rather than defending herself, she moved solemnly through the remainder of her baptism. And while she still knew she loved Jesus with all that she was, the wound of her past cut even deeper.

The Madness Ends Here!

So much hurt in the world is created by our families. We pass our disappointment, regrets, jealousy, shame and anger from one generation to the next. Now this is not the intention. Most people are completely unaware that they are passing on their hurt. However, misery breeds misery.

I have watched the effects of this generational passing in my own family. I have a limited view of everything that happened in my family since I come from “good German stock” so nothing is shared. Nothing. My great grandmother married a middle-class gentleman, together they had two children – a daughter and a son. My grandmother was the first born. Unfortunately, my great grandfather died in his twenties. To add sorrow to sorrow, his family felt that my great grandmother was beneath his station in life so they rejected her and her children. Great grandmother did remarry and together they had many more children. I am certain that she carried through her life the sorrow of losing her first love and the sting of rejection from his family, as did my grandmother.

I never met my great grandmother’s new husband, but I have heard that he was a hard man. Keep in mind, this was the generation of the great depression where life was hard on many levels. My grandmother did mention that her and her brother were outcasts within his family. She went as far as to call her and her brother orphans. In blended families, it can be difficult for the new parent to love someone else’s children as their own. This can be intensified if there is jealousy created by a belief that they are loved less than the first spouse. This easily leads to favoritism which creates resentment, jealousy and a reduced sense of worth for the children.

My grandmother and I were never close. I have no memories of her cuddling or playing with me. She did teach me to play solitaire, which as an only child, I appreciated. Grandmother always seemed stern and carried an air of defeat. She was particularly hard on my mom. There was definitely a perception of favoritism among her children to the point they felt that the favorites were permitted to take advantage of the non-favorites. Children learn more from our actions than our words. Grandmother’s actions did not teach love. She taught resentment, jealousy, and anger. She was passing on what was given to her. The hurt created among her children still divides my family.

Imagine how the world would be if we, as parents, learned to move past our own hurts to give our kids a fresh start based on love. If we took a stand, “the madness ends here!” If we acknowledged our brokenness and worked through it, we could stop it from moving to the next generation.

A Deeper Look at Love

Ok, so Corinthians provides a pretty little poem on love, but what does all of that mean anyway?  How would I apply that to my life and my relationships?  How could this help me deal with the pain inside of me?  Excellent questions!  Let’s start by breaking it down into smaller chunks so we can reflect on it better.

“Love is patient.” We understand that no one is perfect. We are all going to do things that hurt or upset others. Instead of responding in anger, we need to extend grace and give people time and space to work through what is going on within themselves. We don’t force our own agendas and time tables on them.

“Love does not envy or boast.” Life will never be fair on this side of heaven. Everyone knows this. Love says learn to be joyful where you are and not worry about where other people are. Love also does not rub its advantage or blessings in other people’s faces. (Though my experience with this boastful behavior is that it is frequently compensating for their own feelings of envy over something else.)

“Love is not arrogant or rude.” In all we do, we should treat others with respect and how we would want to be treated. How would you like to be treated? Wouldn’t you like people to be kind, to acknowledge your presence and value as a person, to include you in conversation, and not take advantage of you? We should always be nice to one another which could be as simple as extending a warm smile.

“Love does not insist on its own way.” Sometimes it is more important to take care of the needs of another than to meet our own agendas. Love takes the time to listen and understand the other side of the story. Love does not live with the mentality of “it’s all about me.” If you live life all about you, you may gain a lot of things you think you want, but your life will not be fulfilling.

“Love is not irritable or resentful.” Again, people are going to do and say things that hurt us. Love says let go of the hurt and forgive. Taking on the judgement of another and not forgiving does more damage to you than to the person who injured you. Not forgiving makes us bitter and miserable. It is a path to more sorrow.

“Love does not rejoice at wrong doing.” It is a terrible thing to take pleasure in hurting someone else. I saw this frequently in my own family. They would laugh and make fun of other people’s pain or even the pain they were causing. This is a sign of a cruel heart. If you find yourself laughing at another’s pain, I encourage you to find some quiet time and reflect on why you feel this way. You most likely have a past hurt of your own that you need to work through and overcome.

“Love rejoices with truth.” It is so important to be honest with yourself and others. We need to talk things through with our loved ones so we can understand the whole story and what is real rather than relying on the scenarios in our minds. Going through life believing you know what someone else is thinking is dangerous business. No one can do that. No really, no one can do that. And there is freedom in being ourselves. I once knew a woman who wore many different masks. She would completely change her outward personality to be who the people with here would like, or at least her perception of what they would like. She did this for so long; she eventually forgot who she really was. She lost her identity, and she was miserable. You can never know true love from others if you are living a lie. Even if they love you, they are loving the lie not you. Living life locked within yourself – hiding – is a very lonely way to live.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Going back to my grandmother, she did not live out of love. She was one of the most dissatisfied people I have ever known. I am convinced that her and I were never close because of shame she carried. Early in my parents relationship, grandmother learned that my father was a child molester. She never shared this with my mom. Rather than extending patience and forgiveness through love, she allowed my mom to travel a road of pain as a punishment. Inevitably, I walked this road with my mom. I am not sharing this to further shame my grandmother. Our story is a vivid example of how our actions, or lack of action, without love effect more than just our original target. I understand that my grandmother had some tough challenges in her life. I choose to love her regardless of how she lived. After all, love is exactly what she needed. The last time I saw my grandmother, she was in a hospital bed dying from cancer and surrounded by her children. When she saw me, she struggled to reach out and speak to me. My aunt stopped her. To me, my grandmother’s eyes were filled with sadness and regret. I hope she could read the love and forgiveness in mine.

What Is Love Anyway?

In yesterday’s blog, The Fallen Father, we were exploring trust issues caused by broken family relationships.  Towards the end of the article, it was discussing the difficulty of trusting God, the Father, when our earthly father couldn’t be trusted.  And if you can’t trust God, how can you get to know Him.

If you want to learn who God is, the best place to go is His scripture, the Holy Bible. After all, this is His book. God-breathed text to tell all the history between Him and His people. It is also a book of instructions for better living filled with His promises. Some people would call the Bible His love letter to the world.

The verse I think succinctly describes God is 1 John 4:8 (ESV) which states “God is love.” Still how can this help you understand God if you don’t truly understand love? This may seem like an odd question especially for people who were raised in loving homes. But think about it for a moment. Do you really know what love is? In our broken world, sometimes the love we experience is much more like hate.

To explore love from God’s perspective, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV):

Love is patient and kind
Love does not envy or boast
It is not arrogant or rude
It does not insist on its own way
It is not irritable or resentful
It does not rejoice at wrong doing but rejoices with truth
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends.

Consider your life and relationships for a moment. Have you ever experienced this kind of love? Have you ever extended this kind of love to another? I imagine that it would be far easier to think of times and situations where you received or extended exactly the opposite. And I think that based on my own experiences especially before I met Jesus.

Let’s push on this a little further. If God is love, then the list above describes who God is. As you grow closer to Him, the more you will be able to see His love in your life, and the more you will see yourself loving others. And over time as you reflect back on your life, you will be able to see when He was there even though you did not know Him yet. He has been there all along waiting for you to accept His love and grace.

All people have a deep need for love within us. God understands this need, because He made us that way. And He is the only one who can truly fill our need for love.

The Fallen Father

Each of us learn lessons from our parents. Some lessons are intentional from parents who understand to some degree their influence over their children’s lives. Other lessons are taught silently through example frequently unknown to the parent. As with all things in life, parents can only teach from what they know. Many parents carry forward what they learned from their own parents whether good or bad. My childhood lessons were obedience, distrust, and hatred.

Early on, I learned that the role of the child was to be obedient. If you didn’t listen, there would be at the very least disapproval – frowning or angry faces. Enough disapproval and anger would lead to pain. You would eat what you were given whether you liked it or not because you were to do what you were told. You could be present but not heard. Some of my childhood is difficult to remember clearly. Time makes memories clouded. I must have been a noisy child as I remember being told to be quiet a lot even to the point of having my mouth taped shut in school. But my stronger memory and ultimate lesson was that I had nothing of value to say. There was no value to my thoughts and silence was best.

My lessons of distrust stemmed from my father’s complete failure to be my protector. There is an unspoken expectation that the father’s primary role is to protect his family. Parents are supposed to love their children unconditionally and out of that love blossoms the drive to nourish and protect their children. Unfortunately, we live in a broken world. And even though each child is programmed with the need for love and protection, not every parent can live up to these basic needs. The child injured emotionally and/or physically by a parent is left to face the shattering blow of betrayal. Instead of knowing love, the child learns that they are in fact unloved. The child may even begin to think that they are unlovable. “If your own parents don’t love you, who would?” Then the reality sets in that no one can be trusted. Again, “if you can’t trust your parents, who can you trust?” If the only people on earth tasked with your well being are untrustworthy, you are on your own. This is the beginning of the emotional wall. Since you can only trust yourself, you must keep everyone else at a distance.

For me, this distrust of everyone lead to a hatred of people. I found friendship and acceptance in our pets. Even here, I discovered cruelty. And looking back, there is no surprise in this. If you cannot properly care for children, your pets are in trouble; after all, they are only animals. But no so for me. They were all I had. In my world, people were uncaring, rude, selfish and down right mean. My response was greater distrust, growing hate, and retreating deeper into my walls. Truth is, I was learning to be just like them. It was all about me, and who cares about anyone else.

Looking back on my life, it is clear that this destruction of my ability to trust was my greatest hurtle on the path to healing. The betrayal of emotional and physical abuse by someone who was meant to love you is destructive to the very core of your being. Time does not heal all pains. In fact, if left unhealed, time will only allow those pains to fester into a monster of disease and rot. After decades of searching for healing, I am convinced that only God can heal such wounds. And here is the rub. Here is where the devil laughs in delight at his win. Where the devil relishes in the power of his lies. God is our heavenly Father. Depending on your past, you either understand this point or you are lost right now. For me, father was the most vile thing in my world. Hearing the words father or daddy made me want to gag. If I couldn’t trust my earthly father, how in the world could a possibly trust a heavenly father I didn’t even know. Wouldn’t God the father be just like an earthly father just with more power?

We are left to compare God the father to our own father because that is all we know. As children, our years are so short and our perspectives so limited by our experiences – experiences possibly even manipulated and crafted by broken parents. My father isolated my mother and I hundreds of miles from our family. He moved us to a remote no where land with limited contact to anyone. It was a place where he could have complete control over us. He owned my experiences.

Trust issues can only be overcome through relationship and understanding that the other truly cares about you. This can be an almost impossible feat when you are buried so deep within your own walls and filled with hatred. Relationships are hard to build if you are in hiding and loathing other people.

So how do you get to know God and understand who He is especially as a Father? You won’t truly start to understand who is He until you reach out to Him and start a relationship with Him. And yes, you will need to start it. He is patient and gracious; but please remember, time is our enemy. He also honors our free will and will not force Himself on us. (Though some people have had powerful encounters with God – you can read about Saul/Paul meeting God in Acts 9:1-19.) For me, He was patient and allowed me to open up to Him slowly. He understood my trust issues and gave me space to determine when I was ready. I imagine many people have this experience. We go through life under the pretense that we will take care of ourselves and only when we have no where else to turn do we ask for help.

Raising Awareness

In the business world when leaders are struggling with how to motivate or guide their staff, one of the major hurtles that comes up over and over again is trust. Without trust, people will never follow you. You need to develop trust, which can take years, and one false step can destroy everything you have worked towards.

Trust issues start in our homes, in our families. We are broken people, and we mess each other up with our brokenness. Whether it is living with a bipolar mom who is as changeable as the wind, a drunken father who takes his failures out on his wife and kids, the father who has never been loved so he doesn’t know how to love, the resentful sibling that strives to destroy everyone else’s joy, or the parent who betrays their spouse and/or their children, we start learning at a young age that life is not all roses and sunshine and not to trust. Seriously, if your family is supposed to love you and you can’t trust them, who can you trust?

To show some statistics about families and abuse, following are some statistics from a report, Child Maltreatment, 2014 – 25 Years of Reporting, from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau (1).

“The majority (78.1%) of perpetrators were a parent of their victim, 6.3 percent of perpetrators were a relative other than a parent, and 4.1 percent had a multiple relationship to either multiple victims in the same report or multiple victims across reports.

  • Nearly 4 percent (3.7%) of perpetrators were an unmarried partner to the victim’s parent.
  • The national estimates of children who received an investigation or alternative response increased 7.4 percent from 2010 (3,023,000) to 2014 (3,248,000).
  • The number and rate of victims of maltreatment have fluctuated during the past 5 years. Comparing the national estimate of victims from 2010 (698,000) to 2014 (702,000) show an increase of less than 1 percent.
  • Three-quarters (75.0%) of victims were neglected, 17.0 percent were physically abused, and 8.3 percent were sexually abused.
  • For 2014, a nationally estimated 1,580 children died of abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.13 per 100,000 is children in the national population.”

These numbers are based on submitted reports. I know many women who suffered in silence and were never counted. Broken arms and death are hard to hide, but emotional and sexual abuse are a different story.

Let’s look at the long list of issues within a family from another angle. All of the issues cause pain and shame. So, what do we do? We hide them! “No one can know or they may discover that my life is really messed up.” But remember, we are not alone. It isn’t just us. There is help out there; but if we are always hiding, we cannot get help. We have lived too long in a world that tells us to just suck it up and keep going. Instead, we should say this is messed up, let’s fix it so our kids don’t have to live like this.

My family yelled, “don’t tell anyone!” Nothing was discussed. I was left alone in my nightmare, and no one knows the extent of the damage. They don’t want to know. It is painful. It is stressful. It is ugly and nasty. True. But ignoring it won’t make it go away. It will only keep growing. I hope that thought makes you want to vomit. I understand that this is uncomfortable. My stomach is churning just writing this. But we can not keep ignoring that there is a serious problem. There is a hard truth that must be acknowledged. Consider, for a moment, a six year old child who is raped. The perpetrator experiences several moments of pleasure. The child will be scarred for the rest of their life. If we hide the negative consequences to the child, the perpetrator can easily convince themselves that the child enjoyed it too. We have to kill this lie. In my instance, I was told that “Everyone is doing it; they just don’t talk about. It is fine.” It is not fine. The effects are devastating for the child and impact all future life relationships and experiences.

1. Child Maltreatment, 2014,

It’s Not Just Me?

Have you ever been surprised when someone shares a struggle that you also have? A moment when you find yourself thinking, “I thought it was just me.” This thought is usually followed by a feeling of relief. The realization that your response could be normal. Sometimes you even have the opportunity to connect with the other person and share feelings and possibly even help each other.

Feeling like you are the only one is a dark and lonely place to be. It is usually a place of no hope – a place of shame. I do not know why we tend to believe we are the only ones. Maybe it is a condition of being young? As I get older, the more I realize there is nothing new under the sun. Not sure about that? Try thinking of something crazy, off- the-wall, then search for it on the internet. Anyway, I do not know why, but I definitely thought I was the only one. Maybe this is because people are so good at hiding their dark places. Sure, people can be temperamental, moody and dark, but that could just be their personality, right? Or is there something else there. When we always put on our happy faces, other people tend to think that we really are happy all of the time – that we somehow have better lives with no challenges or adversities. Social media is chocked full with pictures of our friends at parties, with family, at the beach – lovely, beautiful places and many smiling faces. Of course their life must be better than mine! They get to go to Bermuda or Saint Thomas! Who gets to do that?!? Vacations on the beach? Not me! But this is just an illusion. Most people are not going to post about the argument they had with their spouse. They are not going to share how that trip to Bermuda led to a second mortgage on their home and the unending financial stress.

So what causes us to hide behind our fake smiles? Pride. We are afraid of anyone knowing that we have weaknesses. Shame. We are afraid of how people would judge us and find us wanting if they really knew us or our prior life experiences. Rejection. People are so quick to reject others that remind them of their own struggles and failures.

When I was a freshman in high school, I was verbally attacked by another student during lunch one day. We did not know each other. We had no classes together. We never spoke to one another. She just started yelling at me about how my life was so perfect. She made this assumption based on my nice clothes and the group of students with me at the table. The reality was that my aunt had bought me knew clothes because when I came to live with her, just months before, all I had were basically rags. This girl didn’t know that earlier that year I lost everything, and I was completely broken inside. And what about the other students? They were an amazingly nice group of kids who took in the new girl even though she was dreadfully shy. They were great friends, and I was blessed to have them. The angry girl made an assumption about me, and she was completely wrong. Though, her out-lashing at me led to a conversation where she learned the truth about me. She also discovered that she was not alone. As it would turn out, our struggles were very similar. My hope since that day is that she found the help she needed.

When we read the book by the cover, we miss the entire story. We also miss the opportunity to grow through the experiences of the characters.

When I was first working through the idea of writing down my own experiences, to share my challenge and my path to healing and wholeness, one person recommended that I include a section on healthy sharing. I struggled with their recommendation for years. What did they mean by healthy sharing? The suggestion alone seems like good advice. This person was meeting with me as a mentor. Their recommendation was directly related to how uncomfortable they were with my level of sharing. There have been experiences in my life that have left deep marks on who I am and how I interact with others. I have a strong belief that if you want to have a deep relation with me, you will need to understand some of those marks in order to understand me and my reactions to certain circumstances. How can you mentor someone if you do not know them? To some, healthy sharing is keeping the dark challenges of your life between you and your counselor. Unfortunately, this helps no one else.

Once I knew a young lady who was obviously being wrecked inwardly by some stress in her life. Yet, each day she pasted a fake smile on her face and pretended that she was fine. One day, I gained the courage to gently challenge her smile. At first she resisted being honest with me. Then she said, “you wouldn’t understand.” This led to further discussion where she discovered that I did understand. She had that moment of discovering she was not alone. She also now had a resource – someone who could relate to her struggles. She also had hope knowing my smile was real. What if I hadn’t worked up the courage to approach her? What if I kept hidden my shared experiences?

When we are open about our experiences, it affords others facing the same struggles the opportunity to reach out to someone who would understand. We were never meant to do life alone. We grow through relationships. This is where I believe “healthy” plays a very important role. We will only have healthy growth in healthy relationships. A person filled with hate or lost in their own despair, who was not found healing, will never be able to help you talk through your struggles. They may be able to understand; but they cannot help you walk a road they have never traveled. Another element of “healthy” sharing is trust. If you are searching for someone that may be able to help you with your struggles, they must be someone you can trust.