I find my friends saying this all the time: “I just met this guy. Tall, dark and handsome. He graduated from college and opened his own business, has a dog, is 29, and single–what’s wrong with him?”
What I would suspect? Wounds. He’s carrying wounds with him. Big, calloused, aging, festering wounds.
Of course, there are a plethora of reasons for these wounds. These wounds could have occurred at an early age, when his parents got divorced, and he spent his entire life, dragged between families, and now, he is trying as hard as he can to deter from that tension, and he’s purposely choosing not to subject anyone else to those turmoils until he can figure them out on his own. They could have occurred in school, when a teacher called him out in front of the entire class and made him feel self-conscious about the size of his ears, and now he doesn’t see his worth, doesn’t value himself, and turns to work as validation of his importance. He could have dated a girl whose breakup was so traumatic and scarring that he is attempting to protect himself by not dating anyone at all, and by not dating anyone at all, he is cauterizing those wounds.
People carry all kinds of burdens with them, and they are masters at covering those up. So, while the guy may appear perfect, and like he has his life together, there most likely is some kind of wound that he is hiding, because after all, we really don’t know people. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Life is but a stage and the play is badly cast”. We know people in certain venues and specific situations, but its not until we are intimately involved in them that we really know the person. I am always surprised when I find out a student of mine, who behaved one way in my class, actually behaves differently in the hallway; but, I know the student in my venue, and I know the student for 95 minutes every other day, and I don’t know them outside of that. Or, when a girl I used to be friends with wins a gold medal in Speed Stacking, and I had no idea she even knew how to do that. People are always putting on masks, adapting to situations, and it can be tricky to figure out who they really are underneath all of that.
It is not until our own humanness is stripped down that we really begin to know people. This occurs when we spend an extended amount of time with people (either living with them or going on vacation with them), we gravely offend someone and find ourselves profusely making amends, we find ourselves in stressful and traumatic situations, or we experience people in their lowest, tiredest, humblest states.
I have been severely reminded of my humanness this past week. I was reminded of my physical humanness, when I woke up still exhausted and hungry. I was reminded of my relational humanness, when I disagreed with a person that I am not quite sure I can get over. I was reminded of my emotional humanness, when a condition of my childhood found its way, rooted in my adulthood. And, I realize these are all wounds that I may silently carry into my life, but wounds that don’t necessarily present themselves as visually festering and prominent. I close myself off and don’t share my feelings when I am stressed and overwhelmed. I am slow to trust people because my own heart has been battered so many times. I get nauseous at certain smells, because certain smells remind me of a traumatic time in my life.
My class this week discussed identity, and how labels and material possessions may not necessarily be detrimental in defining identity, because identity is an abstract concept, and there are so many limitations of language that we could not possibly be able to communicate who we truly are effectively. Instead, I slap a sticker on my water bottle, which says, “CorePower Yoga”, and communicate to my viewers that I not only drink water, but that I also am affiliated with CorePower. I drive a Corolla, which communicates that I value efficiency and economy (and probably that I don’t have kids). I dress in clean, tailored clothes every day, which communicates to my audience that I am put together and clean.
But, the good news is, the best relationships I have are those which have endured trauma, and I would never discount someone who has these big, calloused, aging, festering wounds.