I think we can all agree that lies create deep gorges between two people, gorges that take extraordinarily purposeful effort to heal. I think the quote above is meant to define the space lies create in relationships, but I think it can also be stretched to mean the space lies create within ourselves.
I was thinking about this a bit the other day. There is this little lie that I’ve carried around since childhood. When the nurses, police, or counselors would ask, I would tell them everything was fine. In order to get everyone to believe the lie, I had to act it as well. I couldn’t draw attention to myself or create a situation in which I would be put on the spot about it. I had to be the perfect person in order for people to second guess themselves.
Eventually, I so strongly needed for the lie to be kept that I got others involved. My lie made them disbelieve themselves. I told them to keep quiet, “It’s not that bad… It wasn’t that bad… It could be worse…” among others I can’t quite find the courage yet to type. And, worst of all, my denial of the lie caused the helpers in my life, the ones who had the courage to speak the truth, to look like the liars.
Lies create gaps within people and relationships, but I didn’t realize how deeply the gorge was forming within myself. Now, as an adult, I realize the gap it created within myself and feel its great expanse.
There was the me that I let others see, the carefully crafted, soft spoken girl who got good grades and showed up to class more than most, and then there was the real me. The real me that made mistakes, that believed the awful lies, that felt stupid, dirty and used.
There was a period in my life when I wondered if I could ever bridge this gap. If the girl I wanted to be on the inside could ever blend with the girl I had crafted on the outside. There was this disconnected detachment that I needed to heal in order to live life to its fullest.
Slowly, one minor detail at a time, I shared a bit of the broken girl with someone I trusted. The first sentence created the most anxiety. Would they believe me? After all this time would they believe the carefully protected girl with more walls than windows? Would they think I had changed or had been insincere this whole time? Would they see through the dirty windows and see the ugly that was me?
Would they still like/love me?
Would they keep the secret as closely as I had?
Once they saw me the way that I saw me, would they still want to be around me? Would the well put together, organized, mile a minute overachiever be so fun to be around if she released a bit of the hurt, anxiety, and shame that had been locked inside to fester for so long?
Would they be able to forgive the lies that created this gorge?
Ultimately, when I created this gorge within myself, and perpetuated the lie for so long, I also unintentionally created a gorge between myself and those around me. I kept an emotional distance, masking the insecurities with humor and not allowing for a healthy, emotionally intimate relationship with those who most deserved it.
I called it growing up. I said I didn’t like people who let emotions run their lives. I wanted to have control over this lie, nervously anticipating that once the seal was broke, the feelings would leak infinitely, unable to stop, and that once others saw my shame, they would be ashamed of me. And that fear kept the lies dutifully intact.
Now that I am at a stage in my life where I have erected a tiny unstable walking bridge between the real me and the me I show others, it makes it a little safer to share bigger bits, maybe even a paragraph at a time with people I am forming relationships with. Surprisingly I found that instead of scaring people away with my ugly, it has strengthened our new friendships. So many other people have struggled in similar ways, and seeing other strong humans share a bit of their dirty with me reminds me that it’s not really our dirt to carry. Someone else rubbed the dirt on us, but we can wash it away and start anew.
So, whoever you are, wherever you come from, please know that our dirt and our shame aren’t always ours to carry. Everybody has a story. Everybody has parts of their story they like to keep locked up. The people closest to you may not be as offended by your dirt as you fear, so feel free to start washing it away. Maybe start with a counselor, or a bestie, or that Godparent that dotes so much over you. They’ll help you find the real you and help heal that gorge in your heart, and that, my friends, is priceless.