Over the last two months I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a few really cool groups of people. A women’s conference in Alaska, a Christian congregation, comprised of men, women, and children, and all female outpatient substance abuse recovery support group. Different places, different topics and themes. And yet, afterward, I heard nearly the same things.
“Thank you for your honesty.”
“Thank you for sharing your story, I struggle with ______________ myself.”
“I’m glad you said “crap” at the pulpit.”
“I needed to know I wasn’t alone in this right now.”
That’s when I realized something. No one’s looking for a preacher. Everyone’s looking for a friend. An equal. A fellow survivor or warrior. It doesn’t even matter if we’re battling the same stuff. My story includes body-hating, over-exercising, starving, and competing. But those things are not my real wounds. Those are the poisoned bandages I used in the hopes they’d burn my wounds into submission. The real wounds were the feelings of inadequacy. The idea that I didn’t have value, or the shame of being myself and having it be woefully insufficient for everyone around me.
Turns out, most people carry wounds just like mine.
At the end of one of the presentations I had a sweet, twenty-something girl approach me. She spoke quietly. She smiled shyly. She begged for a moment of my time as if her life depended on it, but also as though she probably didn’t deserve it. My heart broke a little listening to her. I’d gone through something she was going through and she felt defeated by it. Defined by it. I’d never have been able to offer this girl my hugs and tears and hope if I hadn’t have screwed up my own wound care a time or two. She needed me because of my mistakes.
Another woman came up to me and said, “When they announced the keynote I thought it was going to be another perfect person preaching about being perfect. I’m so glad it was you instead.”
BAHHAHAHAHAHAHA. See? There is meaning in these messes.
We can help other people because we all have crap to deal with. Our struggles can pull us together. Tightly. Speaking our trials out loud makes us vulnerable, sure. It’s scary and it’s messy, and it’s raw. Scary, messy, and raw, though, is the glue. It’s what we all have in common. The more open we are about it, the more connected we feel.
So, I just want to say, thank you for being part of my mess, guys.