Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Please, Please, Understand Me!

There is deep within the human heart a desperate need to be understood…to be known, to be seen for ‘who I am’ and not what you may want me to be! The life journey of ‘being known’ is a sometimes distressing and even a bit fearful but always ends with the joy of discovery.

The person that I am is not some ‘thing’ that you know but is a growing, changing, evolving, and yes even vibrant soul! As life moves, I change and become and discover who I am. John Powell said, “Please do not give me a “batting average,” fixed and irrevocable, because I am “in there” constantly, taking my swings at the opportunities of daily living. Approach me, then, with a sense of wonder, study my face and hands and voice for the signs of change; for it is certain that I have changed. But even if you do recognize this, I may be somewhat afraid to tell you who I am.”

Countless books have been written on becoming a ‘more authentic self.’ The ‘becoming real’ idea has been a popular topic of many conversations; so much so, that we have adopted a phrase “would be please get real!” which, being interpreted means, “Cut the crap, don’t you know who are talking to?!” We want people who are close to us to level with us, talk to us, to tell us who they are and what they are thinking…in other words, to open with us! And with this, I wonder, am I going about this a bit backwards?

You see, books can’t explain this, lectures cannot impart this…this “knowing and being known” thing…not it only occurs within open, honest, connected human relationships. In other words, it must be experienced on the journey of self-discovery. The journey of self-discovery is a voyage that is a bit fearful, daunting at times, and yes even painful….but always ending in ‘becoming a bit more real.’

Children are very good at being real…at least better than most adults. Why? Because they have not developed the need to hide…but they will. They will hide like you and I…behind a smiling face, or a know- it-all attitude, or behind prejudice and bigotry, or behind pouting. We adults have a myriad of games we play to keep people (with whom we do want to be close) at arm’s length…and yet we desire to be understood for who we are! What a conundrum to be in…screaming “please understand me” on the one hand and hiding behind some mask or playing some game on the other.

Several years ago my wife said, “I don’t know anything about you that everyone else does not already know.” I remember thinking, “what a dumb statement…what is it you want to know, I will tell you…” (No additional comments are needed here!). She later asked, “What are your vulnerabilities, your fears?” Again, myopic Me thought, “Me? Vulnerabilities? What are you talking about?”

But with her gentle persistence, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. Questions like, “who am I, where did those emotions come from, and why does that upset me?” I found myself (as Morris West wrote) abandoning the search of security and reaching out to live with both arms, beginning to accept pain as a condition of existence, counting doubt and darkness as a condition of knowing, and learning to accept the consequences of living and dying. The life of being real meant knowing my vulnerabilities, owning my vulnerabilities, and disclosing them to others. As I discovered myself and as I ‘knew’ myself more fully, I experienced something very liberating, the need to hide and play games was being replaced with a ‘real me!’ The experience of accepting myself led me to (yep you guessed it), accepting others, and of course accepting her…and through that I found, I am understood and known by her!

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