As summer is fast approaching, I’m more conscious than ever that there are certain parts of my body that are a little less than perfect. I wish certain parts of my body weren’t there, but they are, and barring some serious time at the gym, they aren’t leaving any time soon.
In college I joined a student group on camps and as I prepared to go through their recruitment process, rumors were flying.
“Someone told me they line you up naked and circle your fat parts with a marker,” someone whispered. I cringed at the thought, pulling my sweater tighter around my waist.
The thought of shedding any bit of protection in front of appraising eyes made me want to disappear. The thought of my imperfections being circled and defining me only made it worse.
I was relieved to find out that this was an exaggerated rumor.
But I don’t actually think it’s that much of an exaggeration.
Black markers and hazing rumors aside, I think that we have opportunities to be opened up to this kind of vulnerability every single day.
When you try something new, step out of your comfort zone, or trust someone with a deep part of your heart, you’re opening up your imperfections to their scrutiny and trusting that they left their marker at home.
In friendships and relationships, in telling our stories or writing a blog, we’re opening ourselves up to inspection—to nakedness with no place to hide. We’re allowing people to see our shame and inviting them to love us anyway.
And for some of us, this did not turn out the way we had hoped. For some of us, opening up felt like a grave mistake. Sometimes we open up and are hurt by black-marker-judgment, rejected for our imperfections and for our vulnerability. Sometimes the hurtful response is an accident—an unkind word spoken without thought. Or sometimes it’s the wrong person—someone who wasn’t planning to be careful with our tenderness. And sometimes we don’t know the difference until it’s too late.
But sometimes—oh sometimes—the story ends differently.
There are those loved ones, those friends, and those relationships, where our openness leads to theirs too—both of us standing openly in imperfection and freedom. Sometimes our vulnerability is met with truth—someone lovingly speaking light and love into the places we’ve kept locked up for so long.
And sometimes—the best times—our imperfections are met with even more love. Sometimes when we let someone see us without protection, they love us even more, knowing and choosing us for exactly who we are.
Vulnerability is terrifying. It’s much easier to remain tightly locked up and protected – only showing people the sides that have been buffed and polished into perfection.
But true love doesn’t happen that way. True friendship can’t come from a place of shined up and perfect. The best kinds of relationships only come from honesty and allowing another person to really see us for who we are—from allowing ourselves to come as we are into the safe place of their love and grace.
And we can be those people too. Instead of following our instincts with judgment and opinion—critiquing those around us like an entertainment style guru—we can offer people the same grace that we so desperately need. We can offer them the love and safety of coming into our presence and knowing, with a sigh of relief, that we left our marker at home.
My best friend and I sat in my living room on a warm Saturday morning—sipping coffee and letting our conversations unfold slowly and without resolution. And we began to discuss the summer. We admitted the truth about our physical imperfections and, before I knew it, we were comparing and laughing as we found that our imperfections were the same.
Together we put our black markers down—the imaginary ones that pointed out each other’s imperfections and our own. And we were free—imperfectly perfect, and full of grace.
What would happen if we all did that? If we all put down our black markers and were honest about our imperfections? What kind of freedom could come from knowing that we’re all in it together—perfect in our imperfections and free from shame?
Image via A Well Traveled Woman