We are drying dishes at the kitchen sink, she and I, when she asks me in words other than I will be using right here, right now: “Do people get me? Do they understand and appreciate who I really am?” I am at once taken aback at the question. I dry a plate and set it down, picking up a utensil and carefully turning it over in my hands even as I turn her reframed question over in my mind. Does anyone ever truly appreciate who we are underneath it all? Do we really ever know how to love one another like that- freely, openly, honestly, truly?
I have been thinking about that question all week. Thinking about how much we appear to care- thinking about how much I know I do care. Care about how other people understand me in all my complexity. For we are complex, complicated, intricate people with more definition and capacity than just what lies at surface level.
Sometimes I think we are all so fragile- like a Faberge egg. Something so delicate but so detailed in its truest form.
And so, I think within us all there is a desire to see both ourselves and others for who we truly are. To be acknowledged for that good that lies within, whatever form that goodness might be in its purest sense. Because I also think that underneath our harshest critiques of our own selves, underneath all the mis/takes and errors and failed opportunities and blunders we so often make (we don’t deny our failings), we do see within ourselves that we have at the very least, good intentions. Some might even go further to say that they are actually something better than merely a ‘try’: that they are loving and kind and compassionate and caring in their truest being. That’s how we can see ourselves when we gaze to the very deepest parts of who we are- when all the trappings of reality are peeled back and our soul is exposed raw. Not many people would describe themselves as truly hateful, horrible and unkind. We know that we are not that cruel. That’s because we can see the best in ourselves. We have that ability and are afforded that position and perspective: to see the truth about who we really are underneath it all.
We know who we are at our innermost core. And who we are is not that bad.
But often when I look at others, I see what I want to see. If that person has made me feel happy, I see the person as warm and loving. If the person is funny and makes me laugh, I see the person as witty, humorous and entertaining. If that one in question has made me think, I see them as deep and contemplative. If the person has made me feel sad, I see the person as hurtful and wounding. Or if I feel angry as a result of our interactions, I see in that person everything I don’t like or prefer about our relationship with one another. I see the failings. The truth of the matter is, I see what I feel. And what I see is often very one-dimensional. If what I feel is positive, then the view is positive. If what I see is negative, then the view is negative.
I don’t have the unique vantage point of knowing everything about the person so as to make an affirming, open-minded view. I can’t really ever get inside their head.
But what if I kept an open mind and saw people how they truly wanted to be seen? As how they saw themselves? Flawed, but beautiful. Tarnished but valuable. Imperfect yet complete. Becoming who they were meant to be while being who they truly are at this given moment of lived experience?
I have a dear friend who has told me time and again that she believes that within everyone is goodness and pure intention. She acknowledges that within humankind there is the possibility to inflict pain and wound. She sees that the world has pain and suffering . But still she insists that there is something good within people in spite of this reality. I see parts of what she is saying as reflecting my own belief. Coming from a Christian world-view, while I do believe that there is injustice and ill will within the hearts of humanity, I do see that we have been given a desire toward goodness. But because there is pain in this world, there is pain within us. Hurting people hurt. That does not make hurting people at the core of who they are evil. It does make them implicated in the act of unkindness, but not forever defined by it. That same hurting person is probably wounded. Or suffering in some way. But aren’t we all at the heart of our truest self? For when we are wounded and injured- particularly at the core of our being, our ability to focus on kindness and compassion is limited. It’s just not a priority. Not to mention that kindness is a muscle we use. The more it is used, the more it develops and grows into all it was intended to be.
I realize that at the heart of who I am is the desire to do what is good and right and pure and acceptable. The fact of the matter is that I can’t reach that standard every day and in every instance. Sometimes I fail to project the heart of who I am. Fail to project the image of who I know I can be. That’s where grace comes into play. Because I am loved by a Father that knows my heart and loves me for all I am, He takes me as I am and helps me be all I was meant to be.
In spite of how good I think I am.
In spite of my failings.
In spite of how good I might falsely project myself to be at times.
In spite of how others see me.
In spite of my superficiality.
In spite of my missteps.
In spite of everything.
He loves me anyway- that’s because He alone can see to the heart of his creation. He alone can see me. The beautiful person He lovingly thought of and breathed life into at the moment I was still just a dream in the heart of my parents. He knew me. He still knows me. And He always will.
Oh for a love like that. What grace that entails.