Over the last few years our three sons have been challenging their father to share more about his thoughts and feelings. They have a hunger to learn more about him and to deepen their relationship with him. They have used a great metaphor in their attempts to push him to engage in a more authentic and transparent way.
They have challenged him to “stop being like a skeeter–bug”. This is a type of bug they have seen on the lakes at their grandparent’s cabin. It is a fast moving bug that literally skims across the surface of the water. As it swiftly glides, skating along, it never seems to dive deeper than the surface of the water. My husband has shared about this on his blog, “Building Servant Hearts”.
This is such a terrific image illustrating our tendency to avoid the risks of being vulnerable and intimate. We tend to skim across the surface of conversations and seldom risk diving deeper to reveal what is in our innermost hearts and minds. I fully empathize for it can be intimidating to disclose our inner self. We can end up feeling unmasked and exposed.
What I find interesting is how easily we can deceive ourselves. Most of us tend to think that we do share our hearts and thoughts. Yet if we were to honestly examine our socializing we would probably find that a large percentage seldom dips below a surface level. Most of the socializing tends to be about “stuff” – superficial talk that focuses on topics such as current events, weather, politics, other people, sports, work, or one’s hobbies and interests. It is all safe.
These topics are comfortable because they allow us to engage at a level where we are not forced to reveal who we are and what we think and feel about these things. These shallow topics can be discussed without us having to reveal or claim our thoughts, feelings, worries, concerns, joys, dreams, hopes, failures or successes. We are not forced to share our truths about what we really think and feel about the world around us. We are like “skeeter-bugs”, skimming our way through these conversations, engaging, but at a very superficial level.
The problem when we skim across the surface rather than risking and revealing something about who we are is that we end up being largely unknown. The unique truth and beauty of who we were created to be is therefore unavailable to others and even to ourselves. When our inner selves are hidden it is difficult to form genuine and deep connections.
It has been exciting to watch my husband learn to take greater risks, diving into deeper waters by being more vulnerable with our sons. Their encouragement, combined with his increasing willingness to share his truth, childhood stories, perceptions, feelings, needs and wants has resulted in noticeable benefits. In this process of becoming more transparent to others he has found it is also a journey of self-discovery. For as he opens up and shares more deeply he is learning about himself. A wonderful benefit is that he is becoming more self-accepting. As he connects in a more authentic, real way his relationships are being strengthened and enriched. There is a greater lightness and joy in him as he discovers the freedom that comes when we step out from behind masks and fully claim the beautiful and distinctive individual God created.
For although there are risks in being vulnerable and sharing, the benefits far outweigh these risks. “Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection – to be the person whom we long to be – we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armour, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen.” (Brene Brown, “Daring Greatly.) We must stop being skeeter-bugs and begin to “dare greatly”. Diving below the surface and becoming more vulnerable allows for the possibility of us becoming fully known to others and ourselves, and in the process build richer relationships.