Tag: secrets

Love and Vulnerability: Armour

As I have discussed in previous posts, being able to love often requires us to be able to remove the masks and clothing that keep people out. This can be very difficult to do, especially when we worry that others may not like us for who we truly are. It ultimately boils down to one thing, that revealing your secrets, especially the ones that paint us in a negative light, is to expose yourself to potential injury.

Wearing Armour

We are all familiar with the expression “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. It’s taught to us as children in order to tell us that we shouldn’t worry what others say about us because the words cannot cause you pain.

What a load of crap!

We should all be aware of the damage words can do! Just look at the damage social media can do to someone, especially the young, when they cannot escape their tormentors. Words have a power sticks and stones do not have because they can cut right to the core of you as a person. Someone can zero in on an aspect of your personality or appearance and slowly destroy you.

This is where the armour comes in. Wearing armour protects you from these attacks, allowing you to continue functioning. It protects the core of your being from being damaged. This is something I learned to do at school because I am quite sensitive, so jibes at my person often hurt me quite badly. Or at least I had the appearance of not being able to care, because armour still has weaknesses.

Armour doesn’t just protect us from strangers though. Far more dangerous is the power the people we love have to hurt us. When we let people in, and they can see all of you, your foibles, flaws and damage, you are giving them access to ammunition that can hurt you really badly. When someone you love insults you, they have access to a far wider range of points to attack you for. It also hurts so much more because a level of trust has been broken in the attack; you let them in, and then they did this?! So putting on the armour prevents this kind of damage being inflicted because people never get close enough to access that kind of ammunition.

Rebuke and Weapons

“Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favour rather than one who has a flattering tongue.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭28:23‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

We often like to focus on all the nice things Jesus said and did. It’s easier that way. A cuddly Jesus with a warm, benevolent smile, perhaps a small child on his knee telling nice stories to an adoring crowd. And that part of Jesus is definitely real, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the whole story.

In Matthew 23, Jesus takes the Pharisees to task. The Pharisees were the religious elite, the establishment power. They were venerated because of their apparent holiness.

But Jesus saw through all of it. In Matthew 23, he describes them as “whitewashed tombs”! What an insult! It cuts right to the core of their hypocrisy! On the outside, they look completely clean, but on the inside is still a dead, decaying corpse.

This seems really harsh, and it is. But crucially, Jesus wasn’t saying these things to be mean or to try and hurt feelings. Jesus was rebuking out of love, wanting the Pharisees to change their ways and realise their faults.

The chink in the armour

Armour is useful but is also flawed. The more armour you put on, the more you can protect yourself, yes, but it also renders you unable to distinguish between personal attacks and genuine criticism. Imagine a medieval knights helmet, one that covers your whole face. I’ve no idea how they could fight anyone, you can barely see out of them! And that’s a problem because your perspective becomes blinkered. You cannot recognise when someone is criticising you from a place of love.

I was and still am really bad at this. As I said earlier, I am quite a sensitive person, so any attack causes my walls to go up and for me to go on the defensive. But this also means that I fail to tell the difference when someone is telling me something that I do actually need to work on. I get too locked in to a mindset of defence I cannot improve.

I have slowly been trying to work on this. The past year has taught me that this reflexive defensiveness is a serious flaw, one that prevents me from growing. A lot of the time, my friends aren’t saying things to hurt my feelings; they are merely being honest with me about things I need to work on. It’s hard to change an instinctual response, but I hope I can keep doing it.

Having friends willing to rebuke you to make you become a better person is a gift. Don’t squander it.

Love & Vulnerability: Exposure


Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:25‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I became puzzled by something I read in Genesis. Genesis 3 tells us the story of the fall of man, how the man and woman were corrupted and ate the forbidden fruit. But what caught my eye was what the account gives as the first response of Adam and Eve when they had eaten the fruit:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:7‬ ‭NIVUK

They realised they were naked.

It’s strange that the very first thing you’d notice after eating fruit that gives you the knowledge of good and evil is that you’re starkers. I can’t imagine suddenly Adam felt a breeze around his nethers and that’s what made him realise! The garden of Eden probably wasn’t chilly.

But the fact that Adam and Eve were naked is also mentioned in chapter 2; in fact it’s the final verse:

“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:25‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

The fact that the Bible chooses to reinforce this point twice shows that it’s meant to teach us something. But I didn’t know what. But then I listened to a Timothy Keller podcast on Genesis 3 and how it shows us the different behaviours of sin. He made the point that the nakedness in the garden represents a different kind of nakedness for us.

Being Naked

The nakedness in the fall is a reflection of the fact that Adam and Eve had not sinned and only realised they were naked when they had sinned. Why? Not actually being naked, but realising that others can see your nakedness. And that changed how Adam and Eve saw each other and wanted to be seen.

Being naked means the people who see you can see you for who you truly are. There are no tricks, no way to hide, nothing to conceal all the things about yourself. You are completely exposed. Being naked in public is one of the more common nightmares people admit to having, and I think that speaks to the primal fear within us of what people might think if they saw us that way. Everyone could see all those little imperfections, those unsightly lumps and scars, that weird mole that’s slightly too big.

But it’s not always physical nakedness. There are some people who have no problem being naked in front of others (nudist camps, events and beaches testify to that). It’s not even nakedness within the context of sex, as some people find it easy to have multiple sexual partners. It’s rather more subtle and interesting than at first glance. Because the nakedness in the garden of Eden wasn’t just physical, it was spiritual.

The Soul Laid Bare

Adam and Eve only realised they were naked once they sinned. This is crucial to understanding spiritual nakedness, because being physically naked and spiritually naked are perfect parallels. When you’re naked in front of someone, you have no secrets. They see all of you, all the bits you normally cover up. We cover our shame with clothes to hide those pieces of ourselves (or in my case, many layers, but that’s due to being cold all the time).

Before they sinned, Adam and Eve had no need to hide because they had no secrets. They hadn’t done anything that they would need to hide from one another. But once they ate the fruit and had realised what they had done, they covered themselves, because they now knew too much that could be used by others against them.

We are not so different. There’s loads of stuff we hide and keep concealed from one another in order to make our lives ostensibly easier (although whether it makes them better is up for debate). We are scared that if people can see us they won’t like what they see. I know I kept a lot of stuff in for a long time, and to an extent I still have trouble trusting people with my secrets. I’m scared that people will abandon me or decide to use them against me.

But it shouldn’t be that way.

Love

Just think for a moment how many people you’d be willing to be spiritually naked with. Probably only a few right? Only closest family and friends, or if you’re lucky, your partner. You can be naked with them because you aren’t afraid for them to see your secrets. You can remove “clothing” around them to actually show them who you really are.

I was fortunate to make the group of friends I now have when I did. Before then there was a lot of hidden anxiety and trauma that I hadn’t begun to unpack. But what helped me was someone was willing to be vulnerable in front of me and lay bare their problems and worries. This allowed me to see that opening up wasn’t a bad thing, and that allowed me to open up and develop more meaningful relationships with my friends.

So yeah. In order to love, you have to be willing to get naked. You have to be able to let people see you at your worst, all the stuff you don’t think people would love you if they could see. Yes it’s scary, but you can achieve a depth of friendship or partnership you wouldn’t have done otherwise

And do you know what? Remember that God can see all these things that you hide from everyone else. He sees it all. And he loves you anyway. So you never know, others might too.