Obviously I have to have grace with myself because that hasn’t happened.
I chose this quote because I see so often, especially in Christian circles, the repression of the “shadow” side. I see it in preachers and other Christian leaders. I see it on blogs. I see it on TV. I see it in my friends. I see it in my family. I see it in myself. We can’t look at our shadow sides, we can’t even acknowledge our shadow sides, because by recognizing the fact that we have dark sides, we have to accept the fact that we don’t have it all together and aren’t as perfect as we’d like people to think we are. We have to recognize that we can fall. That we can fail. That we can choose to not walk the high road.
Darkness is repressed because it’s not welcome in our circles. We fear it. We fear our humanity and our tendency to fail. We fear what it will do to us and those around us. We fear being near it. Being affected by it. Being sucked into it. Mostly, though, I think we fear what others will think of us if they see us lurking in our shadows. In the secrets we hide. In the mistakes we’ve made. In the bad decisions with consequences that we’re still desperately trying to rid ourselves of.
On the innocent side of this suppression, I see an interesting dichotomy that has been revealing itself on the internet recently. We seem to be obsessed with Pinterest… with creating the “perfect” birthday, with planning the “perfect” DIY projects for ourselves and crafts for our kids. We even dress up our snacks and look for interesting ways to arrange lunches, all in the pursuit of keeping up appearances and making ourselves out to be the best mom or the best housekeeper or the best friend or the best whatever. At the same time, we bemoan how Pinterest makes us feel. How blogs make us feel. They all have perfect lives and there’s no way we could possibly attain that…we want transparency.
On the more serious side of this suppression, I see secrets in the church. Secrets that are kept because appearances are given more value in today’s body of Christ than truth, grace, and love. Because it’s more important that we have memorized this many Bible verses or we know all the words to this praise song or we have kept these specific rules in the Bible or we can speak the “language” of contemporary Christianity than being honest.
We aren’t allowed to struggle. We aren’t allowed to offer ourselves up — our whole selves — because there is no room in many churches for failure. There is only black and white, right and wrong, and there is no middle ground. There is no option to not look like everyone else. There is only judgment, which many Christians are so profoundly skilled at doing.
The ironic thing about all of this is that there is often more beauty in the shadow side than there is in the dark side. The struggles, the imperfections, the “realness” of not having it all together are what attract us to one another when we are being honest with ourselves. We are saying, “this is me,” and being accepted as we are, shadows and all, is how grace and unconditional love work.
If Jesus is okay with the shadows, then why can’t we be also?