Showing Up and Telling the Truth

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“Courage originally meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics are important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.” – Brene Brown

J_Kathy-750“Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.”

Oh, that lovely but cringe-worthy wordvulnerability. My guess is that if you’re like me, you have a love-hate thing with vulnerability. It’s brutal, hard, risky, and scary to share our real hearts and let ourselves be known in a raw way.

But it’s also freeing, empowering, healing, transforming.

Living authentically is a core part of life in the trenches with people. Down in the nitty gritty of incarnational relationships, fake and surfacey won’t do. Over the years I have discovered that people on the margins of life and faith can sniff out inauthenticity like none other.

My friends’ honesty and courage have challenged me to be more honest and brave, too. It doesn’t always come naturally; it’s very easy for me to say “fine” when people ask me how I’m doing as a natural reflex instead of taking a breath and engaging with how I’m really doing. It’s easier for me to talk about other people’s problems than my own. It’s easier to only share the vague generalities than the nitty gritty specifics.

But I keep learning how authenticity is maybe one of the most important practices I can engage with as a person of faith. The ways of Jesus are all centered around humility. And authenticity requires humility. My reflex is to protect myself rather than humble myself before others. However, when I do that, I miss out on freedom, hope, and being loved for all of who I am instead of only the parts that I am willing to share.

Before I began to be more honest about my real story, struggles, and feelings about God, I had a voice in my head that taunted me: “If they really knew you, they’d leave you.” I listened to that voice for many years. However, over time I finally humbled myself and risked being more honest. I found that not only did my friends not leave me, they actually drew closer to me.

It’s weird how that works. The thing we fear will drive people away is actually the thing that draws them closer.

I passionately believe that the work of the church is to create spaces and places where people can be real, let down the guards of self-protection, and move toward greater and greater freedom. This broken world does not need more pride and protection. Instead, it’s crying out for authenticity and humility.

Years ago a friend told me a little something her therapist shared that I always remember. Part of becoming more loving, more free people is learning how to:

1. Show up
2. Tell the truth.
3. Trust God.
4. Let go of the outcome.

Show up, tell the truth, trust God, let go of the outcome.

I think of these all the time, especially when I am in one of those spots (which I often am) where the only thing I can think of is running for the hills and doing whatever-possible-to-avoid-pain-and-humility.

There’s no way to do these four things without feeling scared.

Without resistance.

Without a do-I-really-have-to-do-this? feeling.

But unless we show up, we’ve got nothing to work with in relationship. We need to be in the room, eye to eye, in the conversation, present, bringing our body, mind, and soul to the same place as best we can. It’s much easier to hide, stay quiet, hang in the back, disengage and guard our hearts.

Then, tell the truth. I’d change the therapist’s wording here and say, “Tell our truth.” This is probably one of the hardest skills to learn. Many of us are disconnected from our feelings, critique our thoughts, and do all kinds of nutty things in our head that discount our truth. Being honest is one of the bravest things we can do this side of heaven. Saying, “This is what’s going on for me, this is how I am feeling, this is the crazy stuff swirling on in my head, this is what I am afraid of, this is what I want, this is what God is stirring up in me, this is what I am confused about, this is what I dream for” is truly courageous. When we tell our truth, it helps others be brave, too.

Next is to trust God. That can be freaky in all kinds of ways, especially for those of us who think we might know better than God what would be a good outcome. Or for those of us who have all kinds of reasons to think that maybe God might not be trustworthy. However, I do think our best hope is taking a breath after we show up and tell the truth and trust that God is in the midst of whatever we just showed up and told the truth about. That we’re not alone in it, that we’re not abandoned completely, that somehow, someway, God is at work in our honesty.

And lastly, the one that is the hardest for us control freaks (please tell me I’m not the only one)let go of the outcome. Loosening our grip, letting go of control, realizing we can’t take care of all of the ins and outs of what happens once we show up and tell the truth is really scaryand wonderfully freeing. For those of us who thrive on control, letting go of an outcome is so good because it forces us to reckon with the most important part of vulnerabilitywe can’t control it. Authenticity can’t be managed, contained, or tamed. When we put ourselves out there, we put ourselves out there.

Vulnerability is a core ingredient of a life of downward mobilitya life centered on people, not programs; a life centered on freedom, instead of self-protection; a life centered on the ways of Jesus, not the ways of the world.

May we be people of courage, willing to show up, tell our truth, trust God and let go of the outcome.

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith. She blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Down We Go--Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus in Action. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose, and five kids. Her most recent book Faith Shift can be found on Amazon.com
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  • HBurns

    ‘I passionately believe that the work of the church is to create spaces and places where people can be real, let down the guards of self-protection, and move toward greater and greater freedom.’

    YES & AMEN to every word in here Kathy! I wish that I had known and learned this valuable lesson in the early days of ministry as life would have been so much easier. I have learned that authentic community where vulnerability is encouraged is the environment for us to truly flourish and grow together.

    I will remember your words and share them often, ‘Show up, tell the truth, trust God, let go of the outcome.’ So, so good.

    xoxo

  • Bev Murrill

    Powerful post, Kathy and full of wisdom and encouragement to be what we are, and not be ashamed.

    But I keep learning how authenticity is maybe one of the most important practices I can engage with as a person of faith

    I agree so completely with this. When we get close to God our masks are meant to drop away. I often wonder at people in ministry who’s masks seem glued in place. In the old days, I felt I wasn’t worthy of such glorious creatures. Now I feel sad for them, that their relationship with God is not strong enough for them to go barefaced and bare souled into their ministry call.

    I love this line: “Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.” amen!!! and amen!!!

  • Karungi

    Kathy, i love this article with every bit of me….i delight in being honest and vulnerable….i have people who have come to me and the first thing they think they love about me is my being honest……… i dont know how to put on masks with people i consider my friends…..talking about showing up and telling our truth and letting go of control…however sometimes its like my being honest and vulnerable has drawn people away from me….am in a place where am once again afraid of showing up..am allowing others to show up tell their story…and shut up about mine…because its like when i open up…they practically run …….i kind of get confused on how to really build relationships with people..the very things i delighted in…have become the things am afraid of…i am afraid of showing up..but am giving everybody else the freedom to show up….does that make sense at all…

  • sandyhay

    My church in the past year has started groups called Deepening. Your blog is what they’re all about. The transformation that’s taking place when women allow themselves to be vulnerable is amazing .

  • Glennon Melton is a great example of just how powerful winsome someone who shows up and tells the truth is! Thanks for this, Kathy – so true. I loved this: “people on the margins of life and faith can sniff out inauthenticity like none other.” Yes, they can, and it should make us seriously reevaluate how we think about our ” seeker friendly” approach to church… Altogether too polished, if you ask me 🙂

  • Most definitely you aren’t the only one (laughing). Thanks, Kathy, for saying it so well: “And lastly, the one that is the hardest for us control freaks (please tell me I’m not the only one)–let go of the outcome. Loosening our grip, letting go of control, realizing we can’t take care of all of the ins and outs of what happens once we show up and tell the truth is really scary–and wonderfully freeing.”

  • Anne-Marie

    ‘ This broken world does not need more pride and protection’ Amen! And the humility piece – so hard! But that word has been much in my thoughts too. Joy there tho, and the freedom to laugh rather than defend. Thanks for such a thought provoking post Kathy.

  • Roos Woller

    Thank you so much for sharing this in a new and fresh way. I loved this quote: ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’
    I hope to be more courageous in my everyday walk

  • Excellent. I especially appreciate “let go of the outcome.”

  • You and I move in some similar circles with people who find themselves in the margins. Our specific area is with men with substance abuse issues. I am learning much from them, about truth telling and putting our truth on the table and letting go. I have a long way to go in learning. I enjoy your blogs as they always add much to my understanding. Thank you.

  • Sarah Joslyn

    Kathy, I love this one. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    “May we be people of courage, willing to show up, tell our truth, trust God and let go of the outcome.”

  • Stacy

    So good. I was just thinking the other day how different my life is becoming, in a world of now speaking my truth. Glad on every level possible for freedom in this life. Whew. #exceptintthereallypainfulmoments #cantgobacknow Thank you for using your headlamp to lead the way. #donttakeusintoacavewithbearsthough

  • Saskia Wishart

    “…people on the margins of life and faith can sniff out inauthenticity like none other.”

    So true!

  • Meredith Bazzoli

    Working on that “letting go of the outcome” thing today! Thank you for sharing your words! They came alongside me at a time they were very needed!

  • Carolynne Melnyk

    Yesterday I had a conversation with a dear friend about speaking our truth and authenticity. How appropriate that I come across you article today! When we show up and be present, God provides the guidance to show us the way. Letting go is the ultimate act of trust! You are my gift today!

  • Good stuff! I wish more people knew the impact that their vulnerability has on others. Not only is it freeing for you, but it’s freeing for them too. I remember one night at an InterVarsity large group meeting this guy felt led to go up front and tell everyone about a pornography addiction he had. That night and throughout the week, other men in our fellowship began confessing, and then they eventually formed an accountability group. Years later (after wrestling with God a lot) I came forward about my own addictions and then a book was written and now all these testimonies are still coming out today. Can you imagine it was because one guy decided to be vulnerable? I wish we could see the ripple effect our vulnerability can have sometimes. Maybe that would encourage us to do it more often. To me, that’s kind of the epitome of loving your neighbor as yourself.

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  • makeda

    This was so good Kathy. Vulnerability is sooo hard but such an important practice, and it is a practice isn’t it? Choosing to show up when we would rather hide. Choosing to speak our truth when the words feel stuck in our throats. Trusting Him when everything around is screaming to do it our own way. And letting go when all we want to do is desperately hold on. Choosing to be vulnerable every step of the way you have laid out takes practice. But when we engage in that practice, this is when we really experience life. Until then we are only pretending. I’m learning the value of this, learning especially, how important it is to let go of the outcome because like you I’m a total control freak. But I feel the Father’s nudge to trust Him so I’m learning to lean into that space and let go. Thanks so much for these words. So powerful!

    • Hey friend I just read your comment and it unlocked something in me … When you said vulnerability is a practice. Something we need to keep choosing. I feel like a slow learner over here, but I love that Spirit used you to unlock something for me. In the comments!!!! 🙂

      • makeda

        Oh friend I’m a slow learner too especially now that I’m in the middle of an identity crisis. I find myself wanting to either retreat entirely or put on an “acceptable” face so new people will like and connect with me. Vulnerability is hard work but the team at SheLoves leads brilliantly in showing the rest of us how it can be done. Thank you for that!

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