I Don’t Fit In
I have been a stranger in a strange land. Exodus 2:22 (King James Version)
While growing up, I was acutely aware that I just didn’t fit in with the other kids. I felt insecure and it appeared that all the other kids in junior high possessed the confidence of having life all together. I just wanted to be part of the popular crowd but instead, I felt this continual discomfort of being a bit of a dork. I know now that the other kids didn’t have it all together and that most kids go through what I went through, but at the time, it felt very real. I was a strange kid, alone in my strangeness.
I felt the same way in my addiction. I knew that most people in my circle of acquaintances weren’t hiding a career-killing opioid addiction, and so, I felt alone. Though it was true about the opioid addiction part, it was hardly true to say that most of those around me were perfect. In retrospect, I can see that everyone had their own life problems, but mine seemed far greater. I felt like the worst person in the world and so, I hid my secret, isolating myself from others.
Our flaws make us feel like failures, so we hide them. When we post on social media, we don’t post about the fights with our spouse, but rather, we post the family vacation photos where we’re all smiling. We don’t share the just-rolled-out-of-bed photo, but rather we share our looking-our-best photo. On Sunday morning, we don’t let everyone know that we’re wrestling with depression. Instead, we dress up to look shiny and perfect for church.
We do this to protect ourselves from the shame of failure, but our facade has two destructive, albeit unintended consequences. First, it isolates us from others. We were made for community and our Christian brothers and sisters should be the ones to whom we turn to find support. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). When we hide our struggles, we cut ourselves off from the very people who may help us through them. The second unintended consequence is that our shiny veneer makes others who’re struggling feel that everyone around them is perfect. So now they too, isolate, hiding their failures.
I’m not saying that we should get up in church on Sunday morning and confess our worst thoughts and failures. I am saying that we should all have certain Christian brothers (or sisters) with whom we can be honest about our struggles. We all struggle with something. By keeping it a secret, we isolate ourselves, making us and everyone else feel like strangers in a strange land.