I’ve been called perky, bubbly, expressive, even–just yesterday–“sunshine in human form.” Most of the time, I am terribly flattered when someone chooses to encourage me with words like these (I think the “sunshine” analogy is quite possibly the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me).
But there are days when I might hide a hurting heart with a great big smile. Or perhaps I just a few hours ago yelled at my daughters or snapped at my husband. On days like that, when someone compliments me with words like these, I feel like a fraud. Worse, I feel like I’ll disappoint people if they know the truth. Many times, I have tried to confide in someone about my hair-trigger temper, and they have dismissed it with a wave and words like, “Oh, you could never be like that. I’m sure you’re exaggerating.”
I think it’s wonderful that people are encouraged by my smile and whatever else it is they see in me (believe me, I often wonder). I don’t want that to end. But I wonder sometimes what other people are hiding.
I have two dear friends who have gone through major heart break within the past year. In both cases, I was stunned to discover the depth of their pain, and the many years they’d been concealing it.
One friend is perky, like me, which gives the impression that her life is bright and happy. In reality, there are layers of darkness in her marriage that nobody would ever suspect.
My other friend is like clear, still water. She is the best listener I have ever known. But with all of her calmness and listening and counseling others, she had never shared the pain and unsteadiness in her own life.
And now, I wonder, how would things be different if I had known more about my friends than what I let myself see on the surface? It is so easy, especially in the Christian community, to believe that everyone is coasting along just fine. And when we believe that everyone else is fine, when in actuality they might be horribly depressed, or struggling with addiction, or cherishing a secret sin, how does that make us view our own troubles?
I am not sure what the solution is. I am careful not to reveal too much (even on this blog) about my marriage, because it is much too easy for women to get together and harp on their husbands, which does nobody any good. But the other extreme, to let it appear as if everything is peachy, leaves us utterly alone in our struggles.
Let’s figure this out together. What do you think?