Have you ever seen the ’90s movie Liar, Liar?
Jim Carrey plays the role of Fletcher, a lawyer and a habitual liar who loses the ability to say anything untrue for 24 hours. A number of awkward situations arise as he blurts out the most inappropriate but honest responses to those he encounters. It is an uncomfortably funny movie that highlights the importance of honesty tempered with discretion.
Most of us are not habitual liars. But, a lot of us are habitual editors, choosing our words to suit the person or community with whom we are interacting. Carefully selecting the words we use to communicate is appropriate, respectful, and can be a reflection of healthy boundaries in relationship. But different regions, families, and church environments have expectations, explicitly or implicitly, for us to edit our words so that we only say nice things. And never talk about anything negative.
For many of us, this rule is our first lesson in dismissing our inner voice. Some of us swallow these expectations so completely, we don’t know what our feelings and opinions really are. Constantly editing raw feelings leaves little to no room for our most authentic self to be expressed, and we are left stuck below the surface of social maneuvering, feeling unheard and unknown. In this state, it is only normal to begin questioning: “If people knew all that I was really thinking, would they still love me?” or “If I offered my full opinion, would I be accepted?” or “If I posted on Facebook the boring or unattractive elements of my day, would people want to know me?
We may also begin to wonder if we have to edit ourselves with God, forgetting that He already knows everything that is in our heads and everything that is in our hearts. While there is a Biblical exhortation (ie: Ephesians 4:29 or Psalm 19:14) to let our words be pleasing to God, it is not an encouragement toward inauthenticity when we don’t have pleasing words to offer. Scripture is full of people who boldly and confidently express their honest experiences in life to God, trusting that He will hear the full range of what they say. Rehearsing back to God only the things you think He wants you to say leaves the spiritual life limp. Spiritual growth, on the other hand, is rooted in an intimate and authentic relationship with our God who welcomes anything you would like to say to him in prayer, not in meeting cultural expectations for approval. God wants to interact with the ugly things we say just as much as the words we think He will accept.
Because our social worlds often breed the loneliness that accompanies partial acceptance, we must be intentional about practicing authenticity with God, ourselves and others. It is important for us to develop relationships with others who have room to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even if it is just one or two people, look for someone you can trust to hear your dark places and who can respond to you with grace. Praying honest prayers with another person dispels the fear that your truest self is isolated from others or from God.
Over time, God’s tender and gracious response to our authentic selves, whether pretty or ugly, shapes us into people who are unafraid to offer the same grace to others. We are enabled to live more courageously, which only invites others around us to do the same. So today, know that you are fully known and loved. And know that God desires to commune with you in every light and dark room in your heart.
Flickr photo (cc) by Nathan O’Nions
Originally printed in Converge May-June Issue 12