Friday, August 14, 2020

On Insecurity

Everyone is insecure about something.

While we all have insecurities that are uniquely our own, we all have some insecurities that are the same. And one of the things that almost all of us are insecure our insecurity.

I started thinking about this last Sunday when my pastor said something like, "You can tell me ten things that you like about me, but tell me one thing I'm doing wrong or I could do better, and that one thing will keep me up at night." The sanctuary was filled with nods. Everyone seemed to understand and relate to this.

It's tempting that the goal of dealing with insecurity is to simply stop being insecure. As Christians, we talk about this in terms like "finding our security in Jesus" and "letting God tell you who you are." The implication is that if we were "good" Christians, then we wouldn't be insecure humans.

That's not realistic.

We are fallen beings in a fallen world with a gracious Father who loves us even when we're broken. If we believe this, and if we believe that He is the only one who can make us whole again, then we have to top thinking that our faith is supposed to make us whole. That a perfect faith is one that doesn't dwell in a fallen human being. Just stop. That's all junk.

But there are healthy and unhealthy relationships that we have with insecurity, and I confess that this is something I did not know or understand until I experienced it in my own life. That means that what follows may not make any sense to you, depending on where you are. That's okay. I'm going to offer it anyway. Tuck it in your back pocket and prayerfully, one day you will recognize it in your own life.

There was a time in my life when, if my pastor had said what he said, I would have felt exposed. He would have talked about feeling insecure, and I would have wondered if he had been reading my diary. I would have looked around to see who else knew he was talking about me. I would have scanned the room to see who was likely to come "talk" to me after services. I would have felt the full weight of the shame that insecurity carries with it because I would have known in my insecure heart that he was talking about me. Just me. Singling me out. Picking me out of the crowd and making an example of me without my permission.

That's the unhealthy way of relating with our insecurities, but it's also our default. It's naturally easy to do. Insecurity is constantly thinking about itself - because of shame, because of guilt, because we feel like we're either not supposed to be insecure or we ought to be better about the things that we're insecure about. So when someone mentions something you're insecure about, whether they attribute it to you or not, you attribute it to you. You're already thinking about it, so it just feels personal.

The healthy way of relating with our insecurities is to accept them, harness our energies for them, and confess them. In other words, to deal with them instead of just to cope with them. I'm not talking about making self-deprecating jokes about ourselves and publicly dismissing our flaws while secretly trenching them deeper in our souls; I am talking about actually dealing with them, being honest about them. I'm talking about being able to say, you know, this is something I don't like a whole lot about myself or I had this experience that made me feel self-conscious about this other thing. It's about being real with our stories and our experiences and our feelings and letting our insecurities just be part of our authentic self.

That doesn't mean we just accept our shortcomings and move on. We can (and should) still work on improving the things we're not satisfied with about our lives. But we don't have to hate them in the process. We don't have to pretend that our brokenness is some kind of state secret. We don't have to live with our insecurities in such a way that they can "out" us when we least expect it. We can just be honest about them and take control of our own story. Our insecurities don't have to tell on us; we can tell on them.

Thankfully, as Christians, we have a God who intimately understands this and who is willing not only to love us as we stand confessionally before Him, but to help us change the things about us we don't love - or maybe help us grow some love for them. As long as we live in honest conversation and humble surrender to Him, He's right there.

How does this change things? What does healthy insecurity look like?

When the pastor says something about insecurity, healthy insecurity looks around the room and sees everyone nodding. It doesn't feel like a "me;" it feels like a "we." It recognizes that insecurity is one of those things that bonds us together in this broken flesh and that, honestly, there's nothing to be ashamed of. Healthy insecurity breaks the bonds of shame and guilt and frees us to experience community and togetherness in our humanity when we're just honest about who we all are. Every one of us.

Because everybody is insecure about something.

What matters is how you deal with it. 

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