Being honest is hard, but being honest about important things is the hardest. I’m not talking about the once every six months bare your soul Instagram post about struggling with perfectionism, the funny story about your “naughty” child, or the tell-all photo confession about leaving your dishes all night in your sparkling farmhouse sink. I am talking actual honesty, about things that matter.
In our real lives, the lives that don't take place in front of or behind a screen, we try, with all the energy of body and soul, to keep up appearances, put on happy faces and sweep everything unpleasant under the rug. It is basically second nature to pretend like everything is always fine. But let me ask, for what?
I am not advocating for a litany of complaints and negativity. We know the world is not served by people who only see or talk about the bad, but real relationships are not built on superficial platitudes and glossy smiles.
What if your friends knew that postpartum depression is a daily nightmare, or that you think your toddler might have autism?
What if your neighbor found out that your heart is broken because, no matter what you try, your daughter is still a mean girl, or that your adult son refuses to come around?
What if you told your extended family that you were having a hard time paying the bills or were really struggling with your faith?
What if you admitted to your teen that you made a parenting mistake or acknowledged that you actually weren’t a perfect parent to your adult children?
What if you told the truth? Not a confession for the world to see, a social media post or a tirade about someone’s else’s problem with you, but shared actual, real struggles with someone close to you who cares. What would happen if you opened your heart?
Do you think the people who supposedly love you would walk away? It shouldn’t be that way. With the right people by your side, honesty will bring you solutions, empathy, real love and friendship. It has happened this way countless times for me.
As a young mom with three little boys, I arrived at our neighborhood park at a complete breaking point. I could have pretended to be a rock star and played duck-duck-goose and pushed toddlers on the swings, but instead I was honest. My friends picked up the pieces of my lackluster motherhood moment and stepped right in, giving me a few minutes of sanity that I desperately needed.
When I have shared questions and weaknesses in my faith with those I worship with, there are no cold shoulders or dropped jaws. Instead there are quiet nods, helpful ideas, and words and examples of encouragement on how I can strengthen myself and find the answers I am looking for. They don’t need me to be a saint who regurgitates rehearsed answers, they love me because we are all imperfect together and are doing our best to figure it all out.
At the end of a gym class last year, my tears were flowing after an especially hard week. A few caring women noticed, and I opened up. I was shocked as they shared their own battles, some so painful my petty problems were put in perspective. They inspired me to carry on with faith. They could have closed themselves off, preferring to remain the peppy, beautiful and strong gym women I always thought they were, but instead they became so much more.
I think we forget that knowledge has the power to change hearts. After learning about a friend’s depression, my capacity for love and patience with her increased, and I stopped expecting more than she could give. When another friend confided in me about her son’s emotional and mental hardships, I was able to see him as a warrior instead of just a really hard kid. It was suddenly easy to become his fan.
If you give the truth a try, I think people will surprise you. There is no shame in struggle. It is what unites us, if we will let it. So, let’s stop trying to power through everything until it is too late. No one should have to wait until they are completely broken before asking for help, love or understanding. Independence is often revered and celebrated, but it is also terribly lonely.
I have often wondered how we can be expected to bear one another’s burdens if no one will share them or how we can mourn with those that mourn if everyone is too guarded to show their sadness. I don’t think God sent us here in families, extended families, communities, congregations and wards so we could walk our most difficult roads alone.
He counts on us to intertwine our needs, our lives and our hearts so we can relieve suffering, share light and become united in him. I have come to understand that it is only through one another that we see the hand of God.