Have you ever heard someone describe themselves as "real"?
Usually, this is after they've said something harsh with a profound lack of tact. Or they've spoken a word that nobody wants to hear. Or perhaps they've let something build inside of them for so long without saying anything, and they think that by saying what's about to blow out of them anyway, they're somehow "about to be real."
But is that really real?
I don't think so.
I don't think that the words that come the loudest out of our mouths are ever our most real. They are our most raw, but there's a significant difference between realness and rawness that simply cannot be ignored. When someone speaks their "real" words, there's always a certain tone to them, always a bit of defensiveness, always a shouting of pain. It's this pain that I hear more than anything, and when they say that it's real, I want to ask them - is that really what's most real of you? Is pain who you are?
Let's not even talk right now about who you want to be; that's an entirely different question. Today's question is simply this: Is this who you really are?
It's hard to think about for me. It's hard to think about because I remember so many days, so many months, so many years when I would have said the same things. I would have stood up defiantly and said, It's about to get real up in here, and then let my pain do the shouting. I remember so easily the times when I would have said yes. This is who I am. I am pain wrapped in flesh, and I don't have time for the sophistications. If you don't want to hear the raw, honest truth, then don't ask me because raw is all I've got right now.
Yet even when I was saying it, there was a part of me that understood that it wasn't true. I needed to be heard so badly that I desperately tried to make it true, but my loudest moments were rarely, if ever, my most real.
My most real moments came usually in the quiet. They were the moments when no one else was watching, when no one would really see who I was, what I was wrestling with. Above my shouts, no one could hear the questions I was asking, but it was the questions that were most real about me. The pain was real, too, but not in the brash, harsh way that the pain spoke to others. To me, the pain spoke in broken-heartedness. My most real moments were those where I could feel my heart tearing.
And I would say the same about joy, too, I think. It's easy to put on a show of laughter, of light-heartedness, of hearty humor. It's easy to throw your head back and laugh so loud that people can't help but hear you laughing and think you must be very happy. But my most joyful moments have been quiet ones, too. My greatest happinesses have been my deepest happinesses, the kind that just settle into the depths of my spirit and paint this quiet little smile on my face that could almost be missed if you weren't looking for it.
Maybe it's just me. I don't know. But when someone starts shouting, ranting and raving, speaking with this empassioned confidence in their voice and saying, You just can't handle me. I'm too real for some of you, I can't help but think that the opposite is true - they just can't handle themselves; they're too raw.
Because what's most real about me has never been what's loudest; it's always been the quietest things, the things you'd completely miss if you didn't know me well enough to look for them.
And while I have a deep thankfulness for those who have been able to handle me at my rawest, I have an even deeper gratitude for those who know me well enough to recognize my realest.
For rawness, I would say that there is no balm. You just have to let the fires die out and the smoke disperse. But for realness, there are a thousand beautiful things that love does well - things like mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
So the question today is simply this: are you being real? For real? Or are you letting raw get in your way?