Humans never cease to amaze me. There are the really awesome things that humans do, but there is one trend that I have noticed that goes across all races, religions, and countries.
This is our ability to be completely and irrevocably horrible to each other.
Whether it’s war or trolling around online or decimating the environment, we humans (and I say “we” because I believe that everyone has the capacity to be horrible) have found ways to destroy and tear apart every good and beautiful thing in some way. Even not doing anything can lead to being passively horrible. I often buy food and clothes from places that don’t give guarantees on being eco-friendly or fair trade. In my own ways, I am contributing to the problems. So what the heck can I do about it?
Here is something that I have been personally challenged on lately, and I think it relates a lot to this human horribleness. You’ll see why at the end.
I am not good at transparency. This is one of my biggest weaknesses. I love for people to think that I’m really awesome, but don’t want them to see the mess that comes with who I am. I don’t want to give people the full package, because I’m afraid of what others will think when they know I’m not perfect. I’ve been challenged a whole bunch by Adam since we’ve gotten married, and more recently by various things I’ve read and podcasts I’ve listened to, specifically from The Bad Christian Podcast.
(Side note, no matter your religious affiliation or lack thereof, if you want some thought provoking listening material, I highly recommend these guys. Except for if you’re offended by more… um… colorful language then probably avoid it.)
So this desire to look perfect has gone so far that I don’t often recognize how it affects me. One small example, I’ve recently found myself looking back on a situation and realizing that, on the fly, I just changed something I said a little to put myself in a better light. It occurred to me that these little white lies probably did nothing to improve the people’s opinions of me, but I was so concerned with saving face that I didn’t think twice about stretching the truth.
On becoming aware of that, it really hit me how much of a problem this is. If I can’t be transparent, I can’t develop those deep, essential relationships necessary to being human.
Ironically, I’ve become much more transparent on things that are probably larger issues. Those are the big battles, the ones I fought hard to win and (with a lot of grace and love from God and other people) can generally see rearing up when they happen so that I can knock them back down before they cause too much damage.
The places where I struggle now are in the little skirmishes, the small things, the making excuses to avoid taking responsibility, the defensiveness when I feel I’m under attack. Why, when I’ve fought and won bigger battles, are these so difficult for me? I think it’s because little daily things force me to look at myself and realize that I am in fact not perfect and won’t ever get to that point. The problem with those daily things is that, well, they happen every day. The big battles are farther in between, if I didn’t have the little ones I could trick myself into thinking that I’m better than I am which leads back into a lack of transparency to preserve the image, etc. etc. etc.
So how does this transparency tie in to people being horrible? There are a couple of reasons.
First, if we can all just admit that everyone is messed up in some way, I believe that we will find so much more grace and forgiveness for other people in our lives. Instead of holding them up to unrealistic ideals and standards, we can say “Hey, you’re a horrible human, I’m a horrible human, let’s try to be better together and not just pretend that we don’t have any problems.”
Second, if we can admit to ourselves that we are messed up, maybe this will allow us to stop trying so hard to be perfect, and instead allow ourselves to really live well. Not being perfect gives us a sweet freedom to make mistakes and, when we are in communities of transparent people, we can talk about our issues without shame. Isn’t bringing our problems into the light the best way to combat them, after all?
Third, having transparency in our relationships and communities is an incredible sort of glue. Transparency leads to rich interactions which not only build us up as individuals, but they create community, even among people who have completely different beliefs from each other. When our motivations change from “I must preserve my image and therefore fight for every little thing that I stand for or else risk ruining the opinion that others have of me” to “I really want to love this person well,” it’s amazing how much stress we take off our own shoulders.
Then, when we as united communities come across horrible humans who aren’t interested in becoming less horrible, we can encourage each other and stand up for each other instead of letting those individuals pick us off one by one. We, as a community, have the opportunity to stand together and actually make a difference.
Okay, last thing. This one is especially to the Christians reading this post.*start rant* One thing that is reiterated over and over on the Bad Christian Podcast is that if we believe that Jesus is powerful, then our being transparent and letting others see that we are messed up is not going to make other people say, “I don’t want to be a Christian now.” Can we just be real and let Jesus do what He came to do? *end rant*
All of that being said, I know I still have a little (a lotta) ways to go in this whole endeavor. But admitting is the first step, right?
If you are interested in the idea of what it is to be human (especially the not pretty side) take a moment and check out my band’s EP, Willfully Human. It explores a lot of these types of ideas and how we, as humans, often act in spite of our best intentions.
My new personal online design, music and video portfolio: http://lizbetklootpalmer.strikingly.com/