“Peace if possible, truth at all costs.” – Martin Luther
Part of loving like Jesus is being truthful. Jesus had a way of being relentlessly honest, while still extending tenderness and grace toward those he came in contact with. He was completely authentic, and expected the same of others. But radical honesty isn’t so easy for most of us.
In fact, we’re often more content to remain–at least, in part–unseen and unheard in favor of avoiding the difficulties that can come with complete honesty. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we understand that real love can’t fully manifest without complete truth.
In Margery Williams’s classic children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, the rabbit asks the old toy horse to explain what “real” means. The horse answers, “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”
This toy horse identifies the fact that we are most real when we are most known and loved. It’s synergistic: the more real we become, the more love we experience. And the more love we experience, the more real we become.
The problem is, being really real is terrifying. So how can we all learn to become better truth-tellers, and be more authentic in the process?
1. Stop fearing vulnerability
Being vulnerable is a leap of faith. It opens us up to the possibility of conflict and clash with the people we’re closest to. But it’s also a requirement if we want to love like Jesus loved, to the fullest possible extent.
C.S. Lewis, as he so often does, puts his finger on a truth that resonates: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to be sure of keeping your heart intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safely in the casket of your selfishness. And in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will not change, it will not be broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable and irredeemable. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the dangers of love is hell.”
Love holds many dangers and perils. It’s perilous precisely because it means risking the rejection we fear so much.
2. Be willing to risk rejection
At some level, all of us fear rejection. Because that’s what’s at the heart of our fear of vulnerability: we’re afraid of being rejected, or “found out”. That’s why so many of us are content to wear interpersonal masks and project images to the outside world that don’t align with who we are on the inside.
It’s likely that you have a go-to “mask” when you shy away from truth-telling. Do you pretend to be perpetually pleasant, even when you’re raging inside? Do you brush off difficult situations with humor, refusing to touch the painful stuff? Is your mask that of a “peacemaker” who shies away from conflict of all kinds?
Jesus himself not only risked rejection on a figurative level; he put his physical life on the line for the sake of loving others, and ultimately lost it. His love was uncompromising and fearless–qualities that cause most of us some level of discomfort. But, feeling that kind of discomfort on someone else’s behalf could be the most loving thing you could possibly do for them.
We’ve all been wounded on a heart level. Our instinct is to protect those painful wounds from further harm, or even to keep them secret. And so we cover up our feelings and put on a mask.
But to truly love like Jesus, you must cast aside all masks that conceal your authentic self and stop being so afraid of experiencing rejection. To that end, we have to be willing to stop caring so much about what others think.
Stay tuned for part 2 next week when we discuss the next 2 ways to be a better truth-teller!
Do you fear vulnerability and risking rejection? What will you do this week to overcome those fears? Let us know in the comments section below.