I’m a happy, positive person 99% of the time. You will see me smiling most days. People have often described me as warm, bubbly and positive. And it’s genuine. That’s who I am at my core. But let me tell you the secret as to why – I’m not afraid to be negative.
It sounds counter-intuitive, right? After all, focusing on what’s not going right can be depressing and draining. Yet a whole host of researchers have found the exact opposite to be true. When we’re not willing to confront the gunk in our lives, it doesn’t recede; it grows. It festers and multiplies. Sooner or later, it spills out and begins to impact those around us. We can become distant and withdrawn, or bitter and vengeful. We’re tired all the time but we’re not sure why. We lash out instead of calmly talking. We bury ourselves under the weight of our fears and unhappiness. And when it finally comes out, it’s usually at the worst moment possible and in an unloving way.
I have to admit putting on a brave face was my “go to” for years. The harder the situation, the more I smiled and feigned strength. Inside, though, it felt like I was dying. Sleepless nights, growing bitterness over feeling misunderstood and unappreciated, it all took a toll—even if I may have been the only one to know it. It’s easy to assume the Martyr pose when this is your default. This is the person who is willing to sacrifice their happiness, their purpose and their emotional well-being in a warped attempt to show love (and if we’re honest, earn a sense of validity and self-worth. After all, how could they get by without us?). It’s debilitating.
Others have a hard time even acknowledging there’s an issue. They’re either “always right” and wonder why there’s a wake of failed relationships behind them, or never admit challenge so they stay stunted and don’t grow. The weight of their mask is suffocating them but they don’t even see it. So, they work an insane amount of hours, drink or play sports to excess – anything to avoid thinking.
The secret I would like to share with you is this: profound peace and joy come from being real. I have learned how incredibly beneficial it is to tackle issues quickly because the sooner I start digging, the sooner the internal healing can begin. Whether you get it out with God, with a safe friend you trust or with a counselor, it’s amazing how much the simple act of respectfully yet honestly opening up is so freeing. Your heart begins to heal; you start to see new solutions or paths to take you weren’t able to see before. Even more importantly, it gives you a sense of connection and self-worth outside of your performance.
Not everyone will be able to receive your “junk.” Some people are all about being understood, but they’re not willing to understand. These are not the people to share with. Nor are the people who will always tell you what you want to hear. And, of course, you have to be open to receive. If you’re not willing to grow through whatever is going on inside, you stay stuck. It takes courage to face your weaknesses. Yet the act of being open, of dealing with your issues and challenges quickly, makes you stronger. As Brene Brown says, “One could argue that weakness often stems from a lack of vulnerability—when we don’t acknowledge how and where we’re tender, we’re more at risk of being hurt.”
Don’t be afraid to lean into those challenging, unruly emotions. At the end of them you will find connection, growth and peace.
For Further Thought: In James 5:16 we are told, “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.” You don’t have to pretend to be happy; Get back to being genuine and watch as true happiness makes its way back in.