If You Really Knew Me
There used to be an old show on television named, “If You Really Knew Me.” The concept was really about understanding that there is so much more to us than people can see or know from the outside or surface-level relationships.
They would use the example of an iceberg that from the surface of the water looks so gigantic, but we fail to realize that below the waterline there is so much more. On average, we only see about ten percent of an iceberg, there is ninety percent more to it that we cannot see.
In the reality TV series, they would circle up students in high school and have them begin to open up and “lower the water line” so people could get to know more about each other. Sometimes there would be simple moments shared about being from a certain neighborhood, type of family, hating a certain type of food or music—things that were really just family facts or personal preferences. It would take a while for the ice to be broken, the masks to come off and people to feel brave enough to be vulnerable with their “darkest” fears, mistakes, choices, stories.
I believe that shame grows in the dark. We begin to question ourselves, “if they really knew me…. then what?” The things that we believe no one would be able to forgive, look past, or overcome cause so much fear, we choose to hide. As shame grows in the dark it begins to own our thoughts, our identities or we simply bury it so deep we are in denial about it altogether.
We let these moments and scenarios of our life define us and dictate our lives. We feel trapped and end up trying to bury these moments and say things like, “I’m taking this to the grave with me.” What we fail to realize is that something inside of us is buried alive. We start to feel comfortable in the known hiddenness, that we’re afraid to bring it to the light not knowing what will happen. It causes us to question everything-- unconditional love, forgiveness, trustworthiness of others. We begin to isolate in the dark the things that most need the light and truth spoken over them. The lies grow in the dark and the fears fester there.
Once the shame, lies, and fears grow—we begin to take an unspoken ownership of them. We can’t decipher the difference in our voice from them anymore.
Shame holds us back from experiencing freedom and love. Shame makes us believe we are a mistake, rather than we simply made a mistake. If something horrible was done to us, it tells us our identity is now rooted in that abuse.
Often times when we’re abused, we begin to believe that the mess of it is better hidden or kept quiet than the work it will take to clean it up and expose it. The light doesn’t exploit, it heals.
I remember vividly the first time I confessed some of my most shame-filled moments out loud to a mentor in my life. At this point in my faith, I was sure I had been forgiven and understood the power of the cross. I believed the truth that he removes our sin as far as the east is from the west, but there were moments that I felt taunted. It was that same lie that they exposed on the TV show.
What if they really knew me, knew what I had done. I felt like those unconfessed moments were simply being played around with in the dark.
What was hidden, haunted me. I liken the darkness as the devil’s playground. (As a mom of four littles, I’m very familiar with playgrounds these days.) It’s as if they can push you on the swing of silence, convincing you that the silence is your friend. He tells you that the rock wall to freedom is impossible for you to climb up, you are all alone. I can hear the squeaky teeter-totter as he toys with my emotions of saying “it is my fault” or “it wasn’t my fault”. He pushes us down the slide of depression, convincing us it will always be this way. It was as if these moments in back seats, dark movie theaters and in-between the sheets were being tossed around and taunting me from time-to-time.
Until, I read a book that taught me the power of confession and renouncing my choices and decisions that were done in the dark. I put the book down and called my mentor, it was 1 am as I was sitting on her burgundy couch by the window. I began to tell her and confess every drunken and dark moment I could recall. I felt the power of the darkness be overcome by light in an instant. The weight of the “what if’s” lifted quickly. I not only then knew forgiveness, but I began to taste freedom. The freedom of the liar having nothing to taunt me with.
No more, “if they really knew me” moments and downward spirals. James 5:16, “Confess your sin to one another, pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective.”
Years after this moment, I was reminded of something that I’d left unconfessed. It wasn’t a personal action that necessarily needed confessing, but it was a dark moment that had stuck itself to part of my identity. As a young high school girl, I found out my name was engraved on the boys’ bathroom stall with a nasty lie about me. I was so ashamed, so embarrassed. It caused me to hide that moment and never tell a single soul.
God is such a good Dad and He is so kind. He brought that moment back up to me in a special moment and in a way that would silence the accuser forever on the topic. He said to me one night, “Your name was engraved on the boys’ bathroom stall, but now it is engraved on my hands.” (Isaiah 49:16) That was another moment of shame-breaking that was so liberating.
I love to tell my story now all over the world and declare this simple truth that I experienced firsthand. No reputation is beyond redemption.