I live with a proverbial red pen. With this instrument, I edit, analyze, alter, and enhance. I transform what is into a derivative of what I think it should be, what I’ve been told it should be, or what I perceive it to be. After twenty-six years, I think I’m still learning what it means to be me in a world of flippant hashtags and false narratives.
Perhaps this war between my perceived self and true self is what’s kept me from writing much for the past year. (Even now, I’m tempted to go back through my previous blog posts to remove unwanted, kitschy content.) I fear I have too much control sometimes, too much time to stew about my thoughts, actions, and motives. Although, beyond the shadow of a doubt, I believe there is a God who ultimately guides and directs everything, I worry about how I should perform my part in the play. Between my conversations with God, myself, and those around me, I’m covered in red.
It’s posting an article. It’s having a tough conversation. It’s taking a side. It’s making a choice. When my actions are called into question, I so often retreat. I take out the pen to scribble out what I’ve done and to rewrite what I believe I should’ve done. Somewhere along the way, my true self and my true opinions are lost.
Although I absolutely believe there is a place for heartfelt apologies and corrective action, I can’t help but think many of us have lost the ability to carefully choose our words or actions and to then stand by them. Disagreements are seldom civil anymore. We’re asked to pick sides and throw stones. What does it look like–that delicate balance between speaking and listening, moving and standing still?
And then more questions come. What will people think of me if I say something? What will people think of me if I stay silent? Ultimately, do I trust people enough to share my opinions, my thoughts, and my oddities whether or not they agree with or accept me? And, if they can neither be kind nor understanding, how do I not take it personally? I fear I’m not that trusting. I’d rather retreat to the writing desk, pen safely clutched in hand.
I’ve shared my thoughts and opinions a few times. I’ve let my quirks and personality come to the surface. Sometimes, I’ve been criticized. Sometimes, I’ve been ostracised. Sometimes, even worse, I’ve been rejected. And, as the old saying goes, that’s the rub.
I want to be seen in a certain light. I want to be loved in a certain way. I want to carry a certain level of merit. However, what if my self-perception is only a small fraction of what God truly desires? Perhaps the way I smack my gum, the way I make conversation with strangers, or the way I go on tangents about social issues isn’t something that I need to constantly dissect. Perhaps God longs to rinse the red off, remove the pen, and help us be better people with better stories than we originally authored for ourselves. We are people with stories to share and love to give. It’s not enough to simply be ourselves, we must be willing to share ourselves, sometimes, unedited.