Most of us have a great big rug in our life. Often our rug is quite beautiful, but its main purpose is to hide things. We frequently vacuum our rug and make sure that what people see in us, (and what we admit to), is prepared for public inspection. But the things we hide underneath – those are better kept hidden.
Richard Rogers wrote a wonderful song for the musical The King and I that says a lot about the rugs we take such good care of:
Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect I’m afraid
While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows I’m afraid
The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well
All the fear, insecurity, the need to appear strong and brave, the need to impress – those are all swept under the rug, and no one ever suspects a thing.
And pretty soon, we begin to believe the lie. We forget that there are real fears and insecurities deep inside us that need to be dealt with if we are to become who we really are, rather than the façade that masks the person we don’t want the world to see.
You see, admitting to our real self means that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. In the world’s eyes, vulnerability equals weakness. No one wants to appear to be weak. And yet, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, and to appear as vulnerable to the world, is absolutely necessary in order to become a real, whole human being.
We humans were created for each other, for community. We need each other. But we can only be in real community when we can participate in each other’s joys, sorrows, needs, and fears. That means allowing ourselves to be publicly vulnerable and allowing other people to be vulnerable without fear we will take advantage of their vulnerability. Community means to accept and live with our differences, our strengths, and what we perceive as our weaknesses – publicly. In her book A Wrinkle In Time, Madeline L’Engle gave Meg her faults as her saving grace. L’Engle knew that so often it is what we consider our faults, those things we sweep under our great big rug, that carry us through the rougher times in life.
I encourage you to clean house. Sweep out all your hidden self from underneath your rug. Learn to love those parts of yourself you’d rather forget. Let other people love the unlovely about you. And love the dirt from underneath their rugs, too. It is only in learning to admit to, embrace, and love the whole person that we become real people.