I am a fake.
It stuns me to see that in writing, but it’s true. I have a major in Facade Management, specializing in External Appearances, among other certifications. I mastered at a very young age.
I had an overbearing father and an alcoholic mother. They fought constantly, coming at each other with fangs glimmering and claws retracted. I can’t count how many times I sat in a corner and pushed my little frame into it, hackles raised and my heart pounding like a jackhammer, praying for the agony to end. Evenings were the worst and tensions mounted with the bating of day. I will spare you harrowing details.
I learned to be quiet and to stay out of the way. My life teetered between anticipating these grueling occurrences, suffering through them, and reeling in their aftermath. Then the cruel loop ran again, and again. Author Alexander says, “Every consistent focus of our attention eventually becomes hard-wired into our neural pathways.”
I then entered an authoritarian world of school where corporal punishment and shaming were the norm. I graduated in the art of people pleasing magna cum laude. I learned to be conniving if needed and to save face at all times. I had no opinion and certainly never disagreed with those around me. I was friends with all, lived in my bustling imagination, and was the most easy going person around.
In 2012 mum fell and incurred a compound fracture smack in the middle of her right humerus. There followed years of surgeries and treatment as it never healed right. She had minimal use of her arm. This was hard for a busy person who was physically healthy and was last in the hospital to bear children. The constant stress, pain, and infections resulted in hypertension.
A year in, she saw a specialist who re-broke the arm, sawed off the damaged ends and injected a revolutionary bone cement to promote regeneration. He oversaw her care for almost 2 years. Her bone began to grow around the cement and it slowly healed and regained function. Unfortunately, the hypertension got worse. She died of a massive heart attack in 2014.
“People often shortchange integrity and values to earn a better place in their exterior, visible life, but in the act they lose their place of honor within.” says Katehakis. In my life, this shortchanging is crippling to the core. It is like a crippled arm that will unexpectedly give out on you with excruciating pain.
“This is the core of inauthenticity; our words or actions become disguised from their original intent since we choose to mask them,” asserts American author and psychotherapist Mel Schwartz. While I am a thousand times better than I was even a year ago, to this day, I can’t count the number of times I look a person in the eye and start to say one thing and then bail into some flimsy version of ineffective nothingness. I give up what I have to say and cede to things I might disagree with, to “keep the peace.” I cringe at the thought of confrontation and stand down too soon. This loss of “honor within” today makes me just as sick as pressing into that corner decades ago!
Hypocrisy presents a lie. Hypocrisy preserves a lie. Hypocrisy perpetuates a lie. Schwartz says, “Authenticity requires a genuine sharing of our inner self, irrespective of the consequences.” There is no worse consequence than the loss of self-respect due to living a duplicitous life. Moreover this crippling is with you like a poorly set bone and it affects EVERY aspect of your life.
My road to recovery will probably last a lifetime. But I am glad to say I am well into it and I am not turning back. Christian Mihai says, “give time time to do its work.” Some things can’t be rushed. My amazing Jesus is healing me and gently holds my face in His tender hands and tells me I am loved, I am delightful, I am acceptable, and He wants to hear what I have to say, even when I am disappointed in Him, a truth I would never have owned up to till very recently.
The same God who guarded me in the fiery furnace of those nightmarish years, who could have delivered me from them but didn’t; is using my brokenness in more ways than I can imagine. It may slow me down but it does not stop me. I’ll be gimping to the finish line with my head held high by the grace of God if I have to. It may impede me, but it does not define me. I am more free today than I was yesterday. Tomorrow I will be even more so because I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me. Rom 8:37.
Integrity, honesty, honor, and authenticity have been injected into the core of who I am and my inner self is slowly regenerating around that and learning, and loving, what it is to be whole.