The Risk of Knowing and Being Known
“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
-William G.T. Shedd
There is an element of risk involved in comedy. I learned from my dad at an early age that a well timed phrase, observation, or interpretation can lift people in a way that few things can. I learned the hard way in middle and high school (some friends would say I still haven’t learned) - that the risk is falling flat. There have been times in a social situation where I can feel my heart race wondering if I should say the joke I feel forming inside of me. Often, there are only a few seconds to decide. You speak it into existence, everyone laughs, whew. Or...you say it out loud...people look quizzically at you, some gasp, some shake their heads in disagreement….yikes.
Taking Relational Risks
Maybe it’s not humor, but can you identify moments in your interactions with others where risk is involved? Those moments where you have to make a decision to go one way or the other...play it conservative and predictable, or try something that might backfire on you?
I’m not a proponent of ‘do it because it’s hard’ mentality. The kind of thinking that leads people to assume the hardest route is probably the most correct. I think it’s dangerous and can lead to people pursuing hard things out of guilt and shame rather than being called to them. But taking risks in relationships often means leaning into the difficult times.
Choosing Honesty over Avoidance
In counseling, we conceptualize these difficult moments as causing resistance. You can see it in a conversation when someone gets close to a really hard truth and they ‘buzz the tower.’ A real close fly by to the core issue, but the afterburners are a full go in order to get out as fast as possible (Top Gun is responsible for 90% of my metaphors in life). In non-Top Gun language - it’s that moment when you (even subconsciously) react to the hard things in your heart by avoiding them.
I experienced this recently with my wife. Facing some hard truths about my heart and sin, I had a choice to make: I can either deal with these truths on my own (buzz the tower) and help us feel like everything is okay, OR I can come in for a landing and risk the pain and hurt being honest can cause. Most days, I choose the easier option (not just with my wife, but with everyone). I don’t like the risk of honesty, I would rather experience the day to day existence we’ve built, even if it means some inner turmoil - at least I can ‘control’ it.
But I decided to come in for a landing this time. And it was hard. My wife is a gracious woman who loves me incredibly well. But she’s also human and experiences pain when I am relationally broken. But something happened in our relationship after that risk. I felt more known by my wife, and I felt like I understood who she was much better.
The Rewards of the Risk
It’s easy to think we learn who someone is most when things are really good and happy. I’m finding that the dirty realities of connection are where I learn about myself and others the most. So what are we risking by entering these moments? Comfort. Control. Understanding.
But in being known, I felt free. I felt free from the doubts...fears...the inner turmoil I had wrestled with as I searched my heart. We were made to be known and our sinful nature reflects the desire to hide. So taking a risk does not always mean entering the hard places, but it certainly means not avoiding them when we become aware of them.
And we won’t get this right every time. I still hide. I still refuse to take a risk. But in that, I’m choosing to be chained to my sin. Isolating myself further into the cycle of guilt and shame. When I take the risk of being known, I take the risk of faith - trusting that the expectations of perfection are fully met in Christ - not me, and because of this I can experience the fullness of a relationship as much as possible on this side of heaven.
What would it look like to take healthy risks in your relationships?