my first counseling appointment (how I learned to stop lying to myself and others)
If you have been following me at all, you know that I am working on my Masters of Counseling at Dallas Theological Seminary. One of the things that counseling students have to do before we graduate is to go to 20 counseling sessions for ourselves.
Hearing about this assignment, I was genuinely excited. I had not been in any kind of counseling/therapy since middle school and I knew it was something that anyone could benefit from. I thought, this will be good. I'm not worried about it because I enjoy being introspective.
Stepping out of my first session and sliding into the driver's seat of my car, I placed my hands at 10 + 2 and slowly rested my forehead at the top of the steering wheel.
That was so weird.
The session itself was not the weird part.
The weird part was that I lied, to my counselor.
Who does that serve to lie about my life to my counselor?
I sat in my car for about 20 minutes afterwards processing it and laughing at myself.
I would typically describe myself as a fairly vulnerable person. If you ask me a question about my life, I will most likely answer you honestly. (Or at least that is what I thought before.)
But there I was, sitting in the parking lot in the beaming Texas heat, facing the reality that I had so beautifully built this fake narrative about my life when speaking with my counselor. Almost effortlessly.
I slowly realized that this was not the first time I have stretched the truth about my story.
For years I have sugar-coated my story for different reasons, and some others can do the same:
- To be appropriate
- To not feel shame
- To maybe be a little more interesting
- To put a label on something I didn't understand
- To make something up in the place of something I didn't remember
We tell our decorated stories enough that we lose the one that actually happened. We tell the lie enough that we forget what was real.
Can you think of a few instances in your life where the lie began to feel more realistic than the truth?
Can you think of a time where the narrative you pieced together one day became the story you told everyone?
All of these thoughts circled in my head until they made me dizzy.
I think I lied to my counselor because, maybe, I wanted her to think I had it all together.
Maybe I fabricate things in my life because I desire to give off the impression that I balance my life well.
Some of us can build a narrative for ourselves for a lot of different reasons.
Don't we all want to make a good impression?
But most of us have idolized "having it all together," haven't we?
I can't even count how many times I've said some variation of that sentence.
I gotta get myself together.
I have to get my stuff together.
I don't have it all together.
I need to get it together.
There is this myth that we tell ourselves and our friends that there is this magical place where we "have it all together," and guess what? It does not exist.
That balance that you are looking for in your life -- it is never going to happen.
Balance is a myth, y'all.
Nobody is balanced. No matter how much they look like it.
We need to stop looking at our life like everything is weighed on a balance scale and look at it more like a pie chart of priorities.
What is more important? Give that more of your attention.
Some of us have it so wrong -- wanting to hold everything in perfect balance and not tip the scale over. If we do, we fear that we risk our lives tumbling down to some unforeseen doom.
We only have 100% of who we are, the time we have, and the resources we are given. To try to give everything an equal amount of attention will force you to give more of yourself to things you do not care about and less of yourself to the things you do.
Balance is a myth and giving everything all of your attention does not exist.
Facing the fact that balance and security is a myth is a little disorienting at first, but eventually, it is freeing.
If we don't have the ability to have it all together, we can stop fighting so hard for it.
We can put the weapons that we wield against our own life, down.
We can stop lying to people that things are better than they are.
We can stop fabricating our past to sound appropriate enough.
My counselor had gone to DTS. So my mind went DTS --> seminary --> church --> need to make a good impression. It made sense as I thought about it. But it left me with this question:
Why do I have so much shame built up around my story?
Can I just be realistic for a second?
I am really tired of the testimonies that us Christians tell in church -- the testimonies that we tell when we've built up walls around our stories to make them more appropriate.
You know what else is a myth? A clean appropriate testimony.
Even if you were saved-out-the-womb, sin is gross and life is messy and let's stop pretending like it is not.
Tell your story. The whole thing.
Scrape away at the coating you have put around your life story to make it more appropriate for your Bible study.
Let us talk candidly about our addictions, our abuse, our mess-ups, and our failures.
Figure out the lies about your story that you have believed to be true because you have told the *clean version* enough.
What are the lies we have told ourselves about our own stories?
What have we made up to make ourselves feel better?
If we were more straightforward about our pain, I can't even imagine what church would be like. I can't imagine what our friendships would be like. I can't imagine how our family relationships would change.
If we were more straightforward, we could be more honest with ourselves and have a healthy view of our life and all that we have been through.
If we were more straightforward about the darkness of our hearts, I believe we would see the Lord move more clearly. It's against the pitch black darkness of night that the stars shine.
"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:3-7