"I don't say everything in public like you do," an acquaintance and fellow special needs mom said to me recently. "People really don't have a clue all that we have going on at my home." This acquaintance was both trying to downplay a trauma my family had recently been experiencing while at the same time elevating what her family was going through. She was also trying to imply that I "air my dirty laundry" involving special needs rather indiscreetly. I would have felt hurt, if I didn't feel so comfortable in my own skin, confident in my choice to be remain transparent.
However, the whole exchange between myself and this woman sparks a longer look at a wider issue. Those of us living in the special needs community are under a tremendous amount of pressure to put on a "mask" to make everything look manageable and under control. Our lives can make others feel uncomfortable. The sad, natural outpouring of that discomfort is to push those of us raising children with a diagnosis to "tuck it in" and keep it to ourselves. Whether it's avoiding us completely or changing the topic when we really need someone to talk to about our child or giving us unwanted, heavy-handed advice, the sometimes not-so-subtle intimidation can end up being like the shock collar that keeps the dog from leaving the confines of his boundaries.
I, on the other hand, am compelled to burst through that barrier. "Keepin' it real," is a hallmark of my personal character. And I think the good Lord made me with the personality and gifts He did, so I could be transparent for a purpose. The reasons and applications for my openness are myriad:
- The uglier I am willing to admit I am, the more beautiful God looks. My sin condition is irrefutable, whether I cooperate with admitting it or not. When I admit I'm a mess and in need of a Savior, my life quite naturally points to the Light of the World.
- My transparency makes it safer for you to be imperfectly yourself. When my house is not white-glove clean; if I lose it sometimes with medical or school professionals; if I love my child, but sometimes need a break from that child; if I struggle with making sense of all of this in the context of my faith then it's okay for you to struggle with those things too.
- My honesty and candor can help you learn from my challenges. Years ago, I began "outing" myself as a person who has always wrestled with chronic depression. It took me a long time in my life to come to the point where I could comfortably share that without worrying about what others think. I am so grateful that I am at a place where I can tell my story because perhaps now, someone else won't struggle for as many awful years as I did before I received adequate care. The same can be true of any other issue I face from creative problem-solving with schools to alternative treatments for ADHD. Nothing can take the place of the sage wisdom of one who has walked a few steps before us on the same journey.
PRAY: Lord, I know that you have given me a story that needs to be shared for the benefit of others and to point to Your glory. Strengthen me to become secure enough to accept my own shortcomings, so that I may be candidly honest. Use my hurts and imperfections for Your good purposes.