I don’t really do scary movies. It’s not only the jump scares and gratuitous gore that repel me—it’s that my imagination works VERY well on its own. It needs no help, so as much as is possible, I try to avoid adding additional content to the outrageous ideas that already live in my brain.
One scenario that plays out frequently (and that I should likely leave unspoken, lest I reveal what a total sci-fi weirdo I really am) is that I’m the only person left alive on the face of the planet. This bizarre thought usually visits me at the crack of dawn, as I am almost always the first one awake in my household. When it’s quiet and dark and still, I can be tempted to believe that the apocalypse has happened and I’ve clearly been left behind. I’m always relieved when I see another living creature, even if it’s my cat. Thank you, Stella, for scratching at the door…and for not being a zombie.
Wild, dystopian imaginings aside, there are many scenarios in life that leave us feeling like the only one.
When we’re struggling in a hard season or we seem to have misplaced the best version of ourselves, we can feel isolated and lonely. Even though our healthy selves know better, our unhealthy selves absorb filtered images and carefully curated posts on social media, falling prey to the lie that we’re the only ones feeling this way:
The only ones who are dissatisfied.
The only ones not nailing the parenting gig.
The only ones who don’t have a group of intimate, life-long friends.
The only ones who can’t afford groceries, let alone luxurious vacations.
The only ones experiencing a desert season.
The only ones suffering with chronic pain or illness.
The only ones whose kids argue with them and talk back constantly.
The only ones shedding tears over a kitchen that needs to be cleaned again.
The only ones feeling like there must be more than this.
The only ones who weren’t invited.
The only ones feeling unseen.
The only ones grieving what life used to look like.
The only ones with anxiety.
The only ones putting high-fructose corn syrup treats in the kids’ lunches.
The only ones feeling stuck and unmotivated.
The only ones asking God if he still sees us.
The only ones avoiding seven baskets of unfolded, wrinkled laundry.
The only ones who shrieked “GET.IN.THE.CAR.” at our kids this morning.
The only ones marvelling that life is simultaneously too big and too small for us.
No matter your experience, I promise you, you are not the only one.
While God’s intention is for us to live connected to him and to one another, the enemy would love for us to believe that we are alone. Whether he uses shame to keep us quiet and skillfully disguising our weakness OR he uses self-pity to lure us into the belief that no one can possibly understand our lot in life, the result is the same. Isolation. Feeling like the only one.
The only way to bust out of solitary confinement is to be honest and real. We need to drag our stuff into the light so that we (and others) can see it all for what it is: a shared, human experience; not unique to us, not insurmountable. Courage and authenticity help to unlock the doors of our prisons.
Sometimes we fear revealing our true selves because of past experiences. Maybe when you risked honesty, your story was diminished, or one-upped, or you were told you to “get over it!” (I don’t know about you, but someone telling me to get over it has never helped me to get over it. Pro tip: These words are rarely helpful). Or maybe your vulnerability was met with blank stares and undisguised judgement.
Sometimes the prison bars aren’t even installed by others; we do it ourselves! We tell ourselves we’re selfish and self-absorbed for feeling what we feel. We measure our hard things against the extreme plight of others, hesitant to share because we know there are far worse things in the world than our own personal struggle.
I’m certainly not advocating negativity, but rather honesty. Honesty does not equal complaint. Speaking vulnerably about hard things does not mean you’re a whiner. And truly, resolving to stoically endure doesn’t really serve us well. In fact, it tends to perpetuate feelings of loneliness and isolation.
But feelings are not the boss of us! We can push back against fear, shame and self-pity by intentionally disassembling the facade that we so carefully constructed. Though we meant for it to protect us, it actually separated us. It separated us from who we were created to be, and thus, from others.
When we share our true selves, it gives others permission to do the same:
The benefits of being fully you are not just for you…[authenticity] creates a pathway for others to follow. When we are real, others can be real. When we are brave, others can be brave. When we are honest, others will feel safe enough to be honest. Somebody has to go first! Be the one. When we pretend to have it all together or “present” as perfect, it renders us inaccessible to others; either perceived as a threat or sniffed out as a fake. In both scenarios, we end up alienated and not connected. When we are real, it diffuses competition. We can connect because we’re sharing the story and fighting the same fight.”
No one has it all together, even those in carefully groomed packages. And on the flip side, very few who self-identify as “train wrecks” actually qualify for the label. There is so much pressure to look like we’re doing it well…to pretend we’ve so got this. But it’s impossible. It’s fake. And if we don’t want to feel like fakers, we need to stop faking. If we don’t want to feel like the only one, we need to stop acting like the only one.
“But what if I cast my pearls before swine?”
“But what if they cannot be trusted?”
“But what if they no longer like me?”
You can trust you and you can trust the Holy Spirit to give you discernment. You’ll quickly realize who can’t handle authenticity and who can. Who can’t reciprocate and who can. The ones who can are worth their weight in gold. Hold on to these people. And determine to be one of these people.
We have to push back against the evil lie that we’re alone. We have to be willing to go first with our stories. We have to share our true selves. We have to be honest about the amazing parts and the hard parts. We have to offer our joys and our worries. When we risk the words: “I feel like the only one who…” more often than not, we’ll be met with nods of understanding and sighs of relief.
Let’s ask the God who dreamed us up and formed us with his hands to unlock our prison doors. And then, let’s help others to open theirs. Be willing to go first. Be willing to listen with empathy. Create sacred space by saying, “yeah, me too.” We are not alone. We are not the only ones.