Exposing Our Weirdness to the Light
I'm convinced that no one is capable of seeing how weird they are on their own. And knowing you are like, unhealthy weird, is pretty important. When we were kids, for example, we may suspect that our families of origins are a bit odd, but it takes outsiders being let inside to confirm it. For example, my mom had a thing about us making our beds first thing in the morning. Okay. Normal. But then, we were not allowed to sit on our maid beds. Ever. We could get back under the covers at night. But study on them or sit with friends on them? Never. My mom said it would wear out and wear down the comforter too fast. (She probably got this from her mom.) I didn't like this rule, because, there was, you now, nowhere else to sit in my bedroom but the floor. But I didn't realize it was pretty specific to my household until I made an authentic friend -- Vicki, in the fourth grade. After we had built a real rapport in our friendship (it may have been years!), Vicki began to call out don't-sit-on-the-made bed rule. She called my comforter the "oh-so-fluffy blanket" and she might have even sassed my mom about it a bit. It gave me permission to challenge the rule, and I think I eventually got a bedspread on which I was allowed to lounge, study, and receive platonic friends for fellowship. This is why we have to risk real relationships. Because inside our own heads and houses, we are often creating or submitting to some silly (or even toxic) systems. Last week, I wrote that though, normal is just a setting on a dryer," it helps us feel less alone to know when our struggles and experiences are "common to man."
Potentially even more critical, however, is when we share our thoughts and we can be set free by the friend that looks at us, cocks their head to the side, and says, "Dude. Where did you come up with that idea? That is not normal." My girlfriends have said this to me at numerous times throughout my life. One such incident was when I shared with my moms group that I thought my four-year-old daughter was a sociopath, because she wasn't motivated to put her shoes on by me crying. (You see how weird this is, right? You can laugh.) I somehow learned that love and guilt would motivate a child's behavior, and when my four year old wasn't moved by compassion into obedience, I was worried about her. Sharing this helped me uncover a really unhealthy belief I had about how to disciple my child into obedience, and led me into some insight about my own childhood. (By the way, my fellow moms said, "She's not a sociopath. She's a four year old." In this case, child was normal. Mom was weird.) In other examples: I finally got a diagnosis of clinical depression and anxiety by sharing some of my thoughts out loud, and having loved ones reflect back to me that these were extreme worries, off the spectrum of their "typical" daily thought patterns.
By telling a trusted mentor about how angry I was with my husband, I got the valuable feedback that my expectations were unreasonably high, not that his spousal skills were critically low.
I got out of a few unhealthy relationships by sharing with other safe, discreet friends the details of some troubling conversations I'd had in those spaces.
I want to highlight this last example. Ephesians 5:11 says, "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." This habit of sharing the critical details of our days, thoughts and relationships with a few safe people can actually save our lives and sanity. Sometimes the darkness that needs to exposed in our private worlds is not our own sin, but the sin of others in our lives. I have known countless women and men who, through the process of telling the truth about their lives, have been delivered from abusive marriages, family systems, workplaces, and even churches. Sometimes addictions or mental illness was present in these situations; sometimes not. But in every one, the brave ones who've shared were given the wise spiritual counsel to stop tolerating the intolerable, learn some skills, get some tools, and establish some boundaries. My friend Jen calls this the "WTF were they thinking? ministry." The F, obviously, stands for fudge and you can read more about it in the chapter of my book "Get Off the Treadmill and Eat a Cupcake Already." But essentially, many of us sometimes need someone to say, "Why in the world did your friend/spouse/teenager/boss/Bible study leader think they could treat you like that? Stand UP for yourself! Get OUT of there!" Though it's a frivolous example, the oh-so-fluffy blanket illustrates that we need to let people in to our homes, lives, inherited beliefs and thought processes in order to lead our freest, most joyful, healthiest lives. Tumbling around in our heads and alone in our living rooms, all the things we do and think seem normal to us! Many of the ways we were treated seem acceptable. If we are not "normal," it's a good thing to know. Our friends, let into the reality, help do the great work of Jesus, to lead us into a life where we have been made free for freedom's sake! So risk telling people the weird, honest truth.