I had a problem with credit cards.
The truth is I had a major problem! When I got my first job where I actually made decent money, I began living at a level I really enjoyed. The problem was when the job ended, my spending didn’t change. With the help of VISA and MasterCard, I kept spending money before I made it. Four years later, I had racked up $10,000 in credit card debt.
Sadly, I didn’t even have anything to show for it! No big TV. No lavish vacation. I got there with iced coffees, dinners, new clothes and movie nights.
I can remember the pre-marital counseling session where I shared with my wife how bad things were. I was scared to tell the truth because I felt ashamed. I feared rejection and judgment. Mostly, I was embarassed.
While we began working on a budget and found ways to stop my uncontrolled spending in our early days of marriage, I held on to the credit cards because I couldn’t let go of my old ways.
Does anyone have any scissors?
One night, while teaching at my church, I asked the tech running the computer in our production booth to toss me my wallet. I had left it near my bag in the booth. Minutes before, I confessed this struggle to the 100 or so people in the room. After surviving that frightening moment, I felt led to take a major step.
I asked if anyone in the room had a pocket knife with scissors. One man did. It felt like forever as I opened up the knife and figured out how to cut thick plastic with tiny scissors. Eventually, I cut up my cards that night in front of everyone. They applauded and I cried.
In that moment, I felt free.
Have you ever told the truth when it terrified you?
It takes courage to tell the uncomfortable truths. Telling the truth is risky. It can be unpopular, even dangerous.
Telling the truth creates freedom. Freedom lies on the other side of our fears. Our fears often paralyze us, while a few seconds of confession and vulnerability sets us free.
We discover the freedom to dream where we stopped imagining.
We find the freedom to connect where we used to be isolated.
We unearth the freedom to create where we were once stuck.
All of this comes from telling the truth.
Some of the hardest truths to tell deal with our own failures. It’s one thing to tell the truth about someone else’s shortcomings. But when we reveal the gaps within ourselves, that’s terrifying.
Why is it so hard to tell the truth about ourselves?
In his book, Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy, Donald Miller writes, “If we live behind a mask, we can impress but we can’t connect.”
If we’re honest, we want to impress each other. I don’t know about you, but I want you to think I’m awesome!
We fear rejection because rejection feels like death. If someone says you’re not okay, it’s like you peed your pants and the other kids make fun of you. Except you’re not in 1st grade anymore; you’re in high school now!
I think we’re more insecure than we realize. Insecurity is a fairly common experience. Fame, success, and insecurity can coexist inside any of us. We think that there is a security threshold we’ll hit once we “make it”, but being secure in who you are has nothing to do with achievement.
So, how do we tell the truth with courage? How do we push through to become vulnerable and discover freedom?
1. Recognize brokenness connects us better than anything else.
Sheila Walsh once said,
“Our brokenness is a better bridge to others than our pretend wholeness will ever be.”
Put a bunch of breast cancer survivors in a room and there is instant connection. Same thing with veterans who’ve been in combat, adults who’ve recently buried a parent or Alcoholics.
When we recognize that embracing and owning our brokenness leads to connection and community, we discover the courage to tell the truth.
2. Answer the question, “Am I enough?”
As a pastor and follower of Jesus, I turn to the Scriptures to answer this question for myself and I learn these things when I read.
I am made in the image of God. God knows every hair on my head and intricacy in my body. Nothing about me has been hidden from God. I am God’s masterpiece. Jesus gave his life for me. Nothing can separate me from God’s love.
Here’s what is truly at the heart of whole-heartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.
Letting go of our prerequisites for worthiness means making the long walk from “What will people think?” to “I am enough.” But, like all great journeys, this walk starts with one step, and the first step in the Wholehearted journey is practicing courage.
The root of the word courage is cor — the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.
Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics are important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.
Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. If we want to live and love with our whole hearts and engage in the world from a place of worthiness, our first step is practicing the courage it takes to own our stories and tell the truth about who we are. It doesn’t get braver than that.
The love and acceptance my wife gave me in the midst of my failure with my credit cards gave me the courage to share my failure with a larger group of people. If she had shamed or rejected me in that counseling session, I would’ve never asked “does anyone have any scissors?”
I believe you have great power when you tell the truth. What do you need to say today?