Seek value in who you are; we need you
For years, I have preached something simple: We do not get to tell others who they are, but, instead, we get to remind them of who they are becoming. I call it a simple idea because it is about respecting and appreciating the basic humanness of our friends. But I do not think my little saying true anymore. It comes down to something we all probably hated in grade school: grammar.
The Greeks have always fascinated me. Their myths, their philosophy, their history and even the way they talk. So, when I came to Baylor, I enrolled in Classic Greek as my foreign language of choice. (Because, you know, we all just randomly run into someone coming fresh off the Battle of Thermopylae who needs a translator. I’m practical like that.) In class, we spend our time talking about how Greeks talked about things two thousand years ago. Mostly.
Just the other day, my professor, Dr. Burris, pointed out a discrepancy between modern Greek and English. He wrote — in Greek — “Christ rose” on the board. “How do you translate that?” he asked. Since Greek ain’t English writ funny — to quote The Burris himself — I assumed the sentence moved into our English neighborhood sounding like “Christ is risen.” Because that’s what you and I would say, right? “Christ is risen from the dead; trampling over death by death.” “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!” “He is not here, for he is risen, as he said.”
“Wrong,” The Burris said.
Turns out, the Greeks don’t believe Jesus rose. Turns out, they know He did.
“Do you believe D-Day happened?” The Burris asked me. “Or did it happen?”
The power of language — of changing a few words or even letters — still fascinates me.
But, so what, the Greeks speak more actively and more present than us. Big deal, right? Yes. A very big deal.
My friend Carlye writes about living in the now. Her words keep me grounded when I find myself doddling about in the someday-somewhere-else. To paraphrase, Carlye says we live best when we spend our time — time we can’t get back — here, with people who care about us, doing things that make life matter. We are our best when we are actively in the present.
It is not enough just to live, we have got to live now.
Brené Brown’s work is wonderful and I do enjoy absorbing myself in it, but I find it too easy to become hypocritical about the whole vulnerability notion. Authenticity is not something that I do well naturally. I’m not good at showing you who I am — especially when I’m in “the process.” (You know: cleaning myself up, learning something new, changing how I do things.) I would much rather show you who I’ve become, after months of hiding, honing and practice.
I spend too much time rehearsing what I’m going to say so I’ll sound smartest. I spend most of my days in a suit and tie because I want you to think me important. As someone who loves to write, I hold drafts back far longer than they should because I think I can always make what I say more fluid, better, deeper, more impressive. My Facebook feed makes me seem cultured, witty and well-read. My Instagram is curated to show only my funniest, neatest, most vibrant moments.
While I do flourish on the stage, I’m terrified of showing you behind the scenes because I’m a mess.
You know what? I rarely have it together. I work way too much. I regularly bark instead of asking. I value my own personal goals and projects in spite of the wonderful friends around me. And, in fact, these flaws run so horribly rampant in my life I’ve sought professional counseling.
The reason I so very often tend to hide behind my work and what I wear and what I say is because I’m hoping to have a better draft for you tomorrow. I’m hoping who I’m becoming will be someone who is more presentable and tolerable. Maybe you get what I’m talking about. Maybe you do the same thing.
But I’ve found that if we spend all our time preparing ourselves — if we spend all our time becoming — we’ll never share who we are with people.
A year ago, my friend Julie saw the unhealthiness I was breeding. She had to ask me not to return to work the following semester at our school paper. Julie knew I was buffering my way through life — preparing for a nice reveal someday. And she knew the wake of damaged relationships I was leaving did not justify my “someday I’ll be ready” mentality. I was sacrificing the now — and the friends that lived in the now with me — for the then, which is not promised and not always where we actually want to be.
I was hurt by what Julie had to say. But she still had to do it. Julie told me who I was, and neither of us liked what or who we saw. While I have preached for years that we shouldn’t tell others who they are, that we must wait and walk with them into who they are becoming, that’s a dangerous approach. Looking back, I’m so grateful Julie called attention to my recklessness. The conversation was painful for both of us, but it allowed me to recalibrate my “are” and save my “are becoming.”
A year ago, my friends were mostly just whoever was near me. Proximity and accessibility ruled my relationships. But friends are the most important calibrating tool for who we are. Friends can save us from becoming something we shouldn’t but can also lead us into someone we aren’t — whether through their words or their lack of words.
I’ve learned to surround myself with friends who constantly pull me back into an actively present mindset. (Which, unfortunately, means I’ve had to move away from friends who don’t or who pull me into their own version of who I should be.)
I don’t believe friends shape us. I know friends shape us.
And thank god for that. Because without my friends: Reframe would not exist, I’d probably be even more of an asshole, and we wouldn’t be changing the world.