I saw a man carrying a toddler who was looking around curiously, taking in all of his surroundings. His legs were dangling carefree, which struck me. This child was in the arms of someone bigger than him that he trusted enough that he didn’t feel the need to stiffen and cling tightly. His muscles were loose, he was taking everything in, and trusting the one carrying him to keep him safe.
Sometimes, the ones we trust—to carry us, our emotions, our hopes and dreams—let us down unexpectedly. We’re cruising along, taking everything in, and the bottom falls out. We’re bumped and bruised, and suddenly the world feels like a scary place. Sometimes it’s a small bump; it heals quickly and we think of it no more. But sometimes, the wound heals, but a scar remains.
We’ve all been hurt at some point in our lives, and the scars we carry around with us cause us to stiffen and cling. Cling to what we know and trust. Stiffen our muscles-physical and mental ones-in preparation for what “might” happen next. We might get dropped. Get hurt. Or worse.
How much of that kind of fear keeps us from doing the things we really want to do? Seeing what we really want to see? Sharing intimacy and vulnerability with people we really love? Instead of taking it all in like a carefree child, we’re on guard for the next hurt. The next letdown. We’re waiting with bated breath for the next bad thing. And here’s the tricky part: sometimes we don’t even realize we’re afraid. We live in fear in the name of being shy, or being independent, or being a party girl, or whatever other coat of armor we decide is most effective.
Eventually, we wear that armor long enough that we adopt it as our identity. We give up on hopes and dreams because “that’s just not who I am.” So now we’re stuck, where we got hurt, being this person that we never intended to be. Being emotionally stuck works…until it doesn’t. And then we fight with ourselves, everyone around us, or both, because there’s a dissonance going on inside. We are trying to be someone we were never created to be.
We were created to be free (Galatians 5:13).
There are some people, unfortunately, who will stay stuck their entire lives. It works for them, somehow, and they never get motivated to change (I have a lot of thoughts about that, but it’s a book chapter, not a blog). But for most of us, we reach a point where the incongruence of who we have become and our inner truth that this is not who we were meant to be becomes too great to ignore. We realize that time is short, and we are not living our best lives, so we do something about it. We realize that somewhere along the way we decided life was scary, and we’re tired of being afraid and missing out on life.
So, we go to therapy, read books, talk to people we trust, build new relationships, and leave toxic ones behind. We figure out what works, and what doesn’t, and make changes little by little to become the version of ourselves that we were always meant to be. We decide that we are worth the effort, and that we can live in a scary world without being scared. We can relax our muscles and let whatever will happen come, because holding ourselves hostage wasn’t keeping it from happening anyway.
What do you need to let go of? What wounds or scars need tending to that will allow you to let go of your fear of living? Choose one small thing. One place to start. Today. Time is short, friend.
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