As a teenager and young adult, I feared that telling my real story would make people dislike me. My story didn’t line up with all of the perfect families that I saw around me. In college, I was surrounded by people who seemed to ooze perfection and they had the happy family portraits to prove it. And, so, I polished up every detail that needed to be polished in order to fit in. If I told only the good or funny parts of any story carefully plucked from my life, people would laugh and they would like me. They would believe that I was worthy of their time and their presence. I thought that if I was funny and self deprecating enough, my story wouldn’t make people feel awkward and uncomfortable. I perfected the art of telling my story, without lying, but leaving out the parts that made people do that head tilt of pity. The parts I shared made me feel like I was just like everyone else and that is really what I wanted…to be like everyone else.
The first problem with this belief was that, after years of perfecting my façade, I started to believe it. And once it all came crashing down, the devastation came that my perfect life, the one that I created in order to be liked, was gone and I was left to face the story I’d had all along. There was no denying that this thing wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t polished. Every good punchline in the world wasn’t going to make people laugh and forget the ugly.
The second problem with my fake story was that it was no good to anybody. I’ve already established that it was bad for me but it was also bad for others. I was essentially feeding the lie in others hearts that maybe their story wasn’t pretty enough to share. They would hear my polished version and suddenly their story feels even dirtier and too risky to share. And, so, without meaning to, I was telling the people that I loved that their story needed to be wrapped in pretty packaging or else be kept quiet.
I believe that the biggest gift to a hurting heart is simply, a “Me, too.” To look one another in the eye, wrap our arms around each other and simply say, “Me, too, friend. Me, too.” Your story doesn’t have to look the same as everyone else’s. Your pain doesn’t have to be the same. A “Me, too” can simply mean, “I see your pain. I see the dark and ugly parts of your story and guess what? Bring ’em out, sister. I have some, too. You are not alone. I’m here and you matter.”
I encourage you to share your real story. Not the version of your story that you clean up and spit shine until the ugly parts are no longer visible. That kind of story is good for nothing. Your story matters. It matters to you, it matters to God, it matters to others. There is someone out there who needs to hear your truth because your truth will shine light into their darkness. Your truth can help someone step from their own shame and into redemption and love. Once your story has freed them, they will share their story with someone else and before you know it, we are all living in the freedom of truth. Your story matters.