Meeting Shame with Honesty
“In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” -Czesław Miłosz
Have you ever watched a child respond to a question with something that feels only half true? You can see it in their face - the slight smile...the immediate shift of eye contact away...they want to be honest with you, but that would mean being caught! So they give you a version of events that is mostly true...but leave out those integral details that would really show you what happened. It’s easier to imagine a cute child doing this, but when was the last time we, as mature adults, did it?
It’s easier to be ‘honest’ with someone else. I can tell you what I did and maybe even feel some remorse or sense of relief. But I can also do this completely disconnected from who I think I am. I can share it to placate someone else. I can share it to appear honest. I can share it because it might even feel honest.
But what happens when I walk through the door, sit down alone, and have to contend with my thoughts?
The Fear of Honesty
We’re scared to be honest with ourselves. We’re scared what it will mean if I actually have to admit that I’m ________ (an addict, angry, dissatisfied, lost, miserable). But as I have written here before, if we give into the cycle of shame, instead of facing what is actually the reality in our lives, we will focus on what we wish we were...we can focus on this so much that we actually start to believe it.
There is an ugliness to my heart that I am aware of - even if it is slight - but I do as much as I can to not think of it. Occasionally, I’ll repent of it and really try to bring it before the Lord...but I will do whatever I can to keep it hidden from others, and quite frankly - pretend it doesn’t really exist. How do I know when I’m not lying to myself anymore? When I begin to own that part of my heart and no longer settle for ‘ignorance’ or ‘hiddenness.’
It’s easy to intellectualize it, explain it away, make excuses, justify it...but at the end of the day, until I am willing to come to terms with the deepest parts of my heart, I am only giving off an appearance of honesty to those around me.
Honesty Breeds Freedom
Paul writes in Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” This spirit of fear drives us away from the admission that we have serious problems. As I wrote last week, we spin our wheels in the cycles of “I really do hate this...I hate that I am this way” but we look for behavior changes rather than heart changes. What are we so afraid of?
I’m actually afraid of being healthy. If I really change, what will that mean for me? I’m used to having sin live in my house. I’m used to keeping it around and just “dealing with it.” I’m used to the struggle. Being honest about it means I’ll actually have to deal with it. It means I cannot hide behind my defenses and addictions and patterns. It means I’ll no longer be able to pretend I’m ignorant about it.
That last sentence is pretty revealing. Ignoring sins of omission (sins committed outside my awareness) for just a minute: I live in this alternate reality I’ve created in which some of my deepest sin not only ‘doesn’t exist’ but I’m usually pretending it is not a problem.
It’s time to get honest about that level of sin in our hearts. Yes, we need each other in this fight, but it starts with you. It starts with a view inward that you fight every day. It starts with a willingness to suspend the alternate reality you have created for yourself. It starts with a realization that even if you are unwilling to recognize these darkest parts of your heart, Christ still paid the ransom to free you from them. We do not have to fear what this will mean for us - we have been given a different Spirit! We do not have to fear freedom. Freedom brings life, not death. Walk with this Spirit into the darkness and allow his light to begin the process of change.
What areas of sin have you been afraid to change? What would it look like for you to be honest about these areas?