While out for a family dinner the other night I realised something new. You know how if you’re close to your family, you tend to think they know you the best out of anyone there is? They see you at your worse and hopefully at your best and so you feel known. That is one of the key beauty’s to family and this is something I’ve always been aware and grateful for.
When we were younger my brother’s favourite thing in life was to irritate me. My sister came along and as soon as she grew out of being a toddler he realised he had hit the jackpot because he now had two sisters to irritate (Poor guy was probably just bored to death and didn’t feel like playing Barbies and Concerts all day long). My brother and I were talking about how sometimes it’s difficult for men to understand women and we ended up talking about sometimes he feels like he doesn’t understand me and sometimes I feel like I don’t get him. He casually mentioned that he learnt very quickly about what irritated both me and my sister individually and from that he learnt a lot about who we were and what we were like. At least, he did with my sister. He learnt a lot about her by the way she responded to his jaunts or his annoying little boy things and through that he learnt about her character. He said I was the opposite. He learnt what irritated me and how he could annoy me best, but that was it. He told me that I used to shut down and switch off when I was irritated or hurt, and he learnt nothing about me.
I’m not saying as a child he had some crazy scheme to try and get to know us better through irritating us, but I do think he accidentally learnt more about my sister and the way she operates and he understands her better. I am still, somewhat unknown.
I’m not at all worried or concerned that my brother loves me less because he understands me less – that is the key, key beauty to family – but it got me thinking about the way we all process life.
It’s pretty easy to classify and identify what happened in psych style terms. When insults or sibling issues came my way – I bottled it up and shut off. When annoyances or pain came my sister’s way, she let it all out. I’m not a psychologist so I can’t tell you which is technically the right or wrong approach. I think they probably say a mix of both, learning to guard some emotions but also not bottling it all up so you explode blabla. Exploding wasn’t necessarily my problem. I was a professional bottler. I still am.
If someone hurts my feelings, wrongs me or treats me in a way that I don’t appreciate – I shut down. I completely switch off and don’t wish to discuss the matter any further. Which I always thought was a bit of a character flaw but I didn’t realise the deeper effect this has on relationships.
By bottling up your emotions or shutting them off altogether, you rob people of the ability to know you.
Blech – are you like this too?
I’m not saying people purposely pushed you so they could see what you were made of, or that people will never hurt you again if you simply let it all out right then and there, tears, tantrums, the works. But if you never let people see what’s going on underneath, why their words hurt you the way they did, why that push is backing into something deeper they don’t know about, if you never let them in there.. they eventually give up. “I don’t understand this girl”. “That guy is too closed off.”
I’m not saying you need to be the type of person that wears your heart on not only your sleeve but your jeans and your jacket and your shoes so that people take advantage of how vulnerable you are. But I am saying – let people know you. Don’t shut off when you’re hurt. Don’t bottle. Don’t hide.
Pain and heartache reveal to the world our true nature. I am most myself when I am under pressure as my calm, cool exterior – ‘my façade’ – fades away. It’s not always pretty but it is extremely real. If you want to be known.. have someone really know and understand your character, you have to learn to stop shutting off. Let someone in.
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretence, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. Timothy Keller