Broken And Beautiful

10352841_732535573459134_721578935202840472_nGuys like to fix things. This is a proven fact of nature. I’m not even necessarily talking about mechanical things either. Guys like to turn flailing businesses around, set broken bones, mow neglected lawns, tune out-of-tune instruments, point out editorial mistakes in the local newspaper, tighten loose door hinges, change their own oil, and on and on and on and on…

Another thing guys like to do is protect stuff. I’ve never shot a living thing in my life, but if some rabid animal shows up in my yard and is threatening my family, I wouldn’t hesitate to put it down. It’s not just physical protection, though; it’s defense. Guys keep tacklers away from the quarterback, scream when they block shots, throw themselves on grenades, take the rap for things they didn’t even do, try to keep the other team out of their end zone, fight for women they don’t even know, and on and on and on…

Although I wouldn’t rate myself very high on the manliness scale, I wonder if all this isn’t why I’ve become so interested in the field of psychology. After depression counseling, I felt as if someone had repaired a part of my brain that wasn’t working correctly and given me the tools to perform maintenance as needed. Then I started thinking about all the other people I knew who could benefit from something similar, and I thought, “Yeah, I want to be a part of that.” Plus, if I could head off issues before they sprouted, I would also be defending people from future danger.

Check and check!

What has been surprising, though, is how beautiful people who don’t have it all together are becoming to me. I’ll admit, I’ve spent most of my life as a judgmental hypocrite, which I believe everyone in the Bible Belt is required to become for at least a portion of their lives. “Those people need to straighten up! They need to get it together!” And then I realized those people were me. I didn’t have it all together either, and I still don’t. As singer/songwriter Derek Webb once sang, “There are things you would not believe that travel into my mind.” There wasn’t a them anymore; suddenly, it was us.

The main problem with broken people, however, is that it’s very difficult to convince them they’re beautiful. Take a beautiful youngquote-about-maybe-youre-not-perfect-but-that-doesnt-mean-youre-not-beautiful woman, for example, the kind a guy would do stupid things for. Maybe she had trouble with her family. Maybe she has marks on her face left by acne. Maybe she has a scar from some harrowing surgery she thinks will make her ugly if anyone sees it. She doesn’t want to hear about being beautiful, even when someone tells her she is. It’s heartbreaking when she won’t accept a compliment.

Broken people also don’t want to be called broken. They build up tough shells, and even though everything about them screams “I need a friend,” they do their best to keep everyone at arm’s length. They want to set the rules and the boundaries, and they don’t want protection or defense from anyone. At least, that’s what they’ll tell you. They work hard to project independence and toughness, even though they can be hurt very easily by the insensitive among us. They can be fiercely loyal, but also ready to bolt at the first sign of danger.

I used to think I had to fix broken people to make them beautiful. I used to try to protect them and act all self-sacrificing by turning myself into some type of martyr on their behalf. In actuality, I probably just made them feel worse. I don’t need to repair anyone; I need to love them, the same way God loves me even though I falter terribly every day. I hope psychology can be a vehicle for me to do that more effectively by teaching me more about how the mind works, but all that knowledge is useless without the heart. If I can’t say to someone, “I’m here. I’m not running. We’re in this for the long haul, no matter what.”, then I’m defeated before I even start.

I’m a guy, and I like to fix things. I’m a guy, and I like to offer protection. Sometimes, though, I don’t need to do either one. I just need to be there, not trying to offer up any judgments or complicating the matter. There’s a beauty in that brokenness that I can’t explain. It’s gracious and it’s grand, even when I blunder in and step all over it. I’m happy to be a part of it, and I don’t want to lose it. We shouldn’t want to lose it, since you probably saw beauty in me when I didn’t see it either.

I’m here. I’m not running. We’ll make it.

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The Fine Line

pencil boxWhen I was very young, I used to have this desire to show other kids little tips on how to do things better. You know, like keeping all your pencils in a pencil case instead of just having them rolling around your desk everywhere. The last memory I have of attempting to share one of these tips was in the first grade, which was probably a good thing, since writing that second sentence actually made me want to travel back in time and beat myself up for being such a dweeb.

That desire to show people the “right” way to do things still crops up in me from time to time, which is ironic because I’m not a particularly big fan of someone attempting to convince me they have all the answers. I’m not saying I don’t ever listen to anyone, but I’m typically drawn to those teachers who express just a hint of doubt or at least occasionally admit they might be mistaken. I don’t believe anyone has it all together all the time.

Looking back on some of the things I’ve written here, I hope I haven’t come across as the kid with the pencil case. Sometimes I feel as if I need to come up with some moral or wisdom because that’s what good Christians do, but I’ve noticed I tend to get more response when I write about not having all the answers. The line to be walked, then, is this: How do I offer content that is helpful, insightful, and inspiring without giving the impression I have everything all figured out?

Fittingly, my answer to that question is I don’t know.

I’m just jotting all this down quickly before bed tonight because I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to elevate myself to some position I don’t deserve. In fact, I don’t want to elevate myself to any position at all. At the same time, though, I don’t want to revel in uncertainty and lament how difficult everything is when I know there is a way out and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve done enough wallowing over the years; I’d rather not encourage that here.

So what does all that make me? Just some dude with a blog. No more, no less. You can keep your pencils wherever you want.