Let’s be really honest here: No one makes it past seventeen or eighteen without receiving their fair share of dings—and that’s if they are lucky. By the time most people get their driver’s license, they have already experienced enough emotional and spiritual fender benders that their hearts are dented and their self-image is scratched for years to come.
You know what I’m talking about: parents divorcing, grandparents dying, being shamed by a coach or mentor, being rejected by a girl or a guy, humiliating yourself in front of a crowd, being betrayed by someone you trusted, or having your hopes and dreams evaporate like spilled gasoline.
Everybody gets kicked a few times in life. That’s a given. The only question is where have you been kicked (teeth, guts, shins) and who did the kicking (friend, foe, family, God). Heartache is not terribly diverse, but it’s certainly widespread.
As a therapist, I’ve heard thousands of sad stories. Every person loses their innocence at some point—some of us gradually, and some more suddenly. Sadly, these assaults to our hearts result in far more than adolescent angst. When a person’s heart has been wounded, the results are significant: self-protection, distrust of others, and a fervent reliance on self-sufficiency through training, talent, willpower, and intellect.
Once wounded by life, most people come to depend far more deeply on their own skills, aptitudes, resolve, strength, and brains than they do on God and others. They build facades that hide the truth of who they really are. These facades come in all shapes, sizes, and combinations. They can be tough, cold, or calculating; childish, whimsical, or charming; powerful, aggressive, or assertive; pious, intellectual, or contemplative; conservative, radical, or compassionate. You get the idea. In short, we learn to fake it.*
In what ways have the wounds from life encouraged you to build the facade of a false self?
Can you imagine a life where you don’t have to hide your heart? What does your mask look like?
*This post is an excerpt from Stephen’s book, How to Hit a Curveball, Grill the Perfect Steak, and Be a Real Man.
Stephen James, MA, LPC-MHSP, NCC, is the Executive Director of Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, TN. He is also a best-selling author of five books, including Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys. He is active in training other mental health professionals as well as to speaking to audiences around the country on the topics of living fully, servant leadership, family relationships, and spiritual authenticity.