One of the greatest oppressors we live under today is the belief that perception is reality.
We live in a time when the ad campaigns run not only the external, but the internal dialogue of our lives. We’ve bought into the marketer’s pitch that perception is reality and it’s tearing us apart.
It’s tearing our marriages, friendships, relationships and our churches apart. No longer are we content to live and love with our whole heart and have that be enough. Rather, we’re thrust into the competitive dance for worthiness that leaves us comparing and competing for our worth and identity.
A trap so mired with rejection, abandonment, critical spirits and the slippery slope of judgment.
We’re so quick to judge the path we have never walked, and the story we have never lived, because we’re too afraid to deal with the pain in our own life. Afraid to address the lies we have believed from the time we were too young to understand, the relationships that are tearing us apart, and the judgment and idols we cling to for security in this world.
And so we turn our angst, our fear and insecurities into walls, believing they will protect us.
But buried in the fabric of our DNA is the God-given need for community. Deep inside us we know that the truth of our lives is raw and messy and imperfect and very real. Everyone has a story.
And we hide behind pretty.
We believe if we can look pretty, act pretty and talk pretty, we can protect ourselves from rejection and pain. We believe that if we live on the surface of our lives, we can protect ourselves from suffering.
But in doing so, we miss out on the only way to connect in true, meaningful relationship. We literally stand in the way of forging authentic community with people who live and breathe and dream in the same way we do because we’re afraid of being hurt. Because we’ve been hurt before and we’re just not quite sure it was worth it.
But above all else, aren’t we called to love? How quickly we forget to love ourselves. And the truth of the matter is the only way we can love others well is to first love ourself. To have the courage to step into the reality of our life and embrace our whole story, not just the parts that are pretty.
Here is an excerpt from my new book, Pretty: Breaking Free From The Illusions of a Superficial Life.
Truth is always found in the open, by way of the light. Living in the open is scary because it requires vulnerability. Nakedness. It requires us to say yes to light, love, truth, honesty, forgiveness, openness, and wholeness. It requires us to lay down our deeply entrenched beliefs that perception is reality and find the courage to be who we are with our whole hearts. It means understanding that what we look for in others is the ability for them to be authentic and vulnerable with us—the same things we try to hide or suppress in ourselves.
I want you to have the courage to say yes to the spirit within you that so desperately wants to be loved and enough and realize that you already are loved and enough. “It’s the brave who say a prayerful yes, the brave and wise who believe that the faith-filled yes is what heals things.”[i]
And maybe it’s as simple as that: choosing yes, saying yes, believing yes, every day when the difficult moment comes. Say yes to truth, life, love, grace, peace, and joy. Say no to jealousy, competition, critical spirits, dissension, and division. Proclaim a prayerful yes to all that is good and a firm no to all that destroys. Over time and practice, this courage becomes real; it becomes our authentic self. And we begin to speak truth and live truth and be our truth, wholly authentic, alive and free.
It’s the wise who find their identity in Christ. In the perfect masterpiece created when He made you wholly and dearly loved, adored, relentlessly pursued, and yet free. We are free to choose whether we will follow Him, read His word, and listen to His teaching. How much more does He long for us? We search in vain, hiding and fumbling in the dark, and all the while our fullness is waiting patiently by our side—waiting for the choosing, for us to say yes.
So it’s the choosing then that’s the hardest part. Choosing yes means we let go of our false sense of control. It means we open our hands and begin to have faith. It’s what makes our hearts flutter and our knees go weak. The giving up of our desire for concrete answers or carefully crafted plans, in exchange for cultivating our faith, is the belief in something for which there is no proof.
When our selfish hearts want nothing more than to say no to what we know will offer grace, love, gentleness, and peace, that is the precise moment we must practice courage. That is when we step out in faith and say yes—yes to light, yes to healing, yes to grace, yes to us and to who we are in this very moment. It’s one of the bravest things we do.