This, plus a whole host of other dark and hidden secrets.
Julie Ferwerda wrote a heartbreaking post about how we're killing our brothers a few days back, and when I read it, I couldn't help but feel an immense sadness settle in my heart.
It's true, isn't it, how many of us keep our shameful truths to ourselves, being unwilling to share them with others, especially within the church community. Afraid of being looked down upon and condemned. It's so much easier to talk about the trials that we're facing now, such as the next big exam coming up, or the stress you're facing at work. And even if we do share these secrets with a trusted few, it still doesn't help us overcome it. If the other party can't relate, all they can say is that they will pray. And then comes the process of reporting your progress on how you're dealing with this problem. It's so easy to say "yes, I'm getting better" as compared to "no, I'm still struggling with it. In fact, it's worse now."
People want to hear success stories. If you're going to talk about what you're struggling with, you'd better be sure that you can stand up a few weeks/months later and talk about how you've overcome it. In fact, most people don't even talk about it until after the fact. They deal with these struggles on their own until, like a reformed addict, they can stand up and proclaim that they've 'kicked the habit' to solidify their reformation process. Then people come to congratulate him on his success. No one expects a relapse. No one expects that this person will fall back into the deep end. God has taken over, and there's nothing the devil can do to overturn this victory.
But it's not always like that. Relapses do happen. People do fall. Perhaps the 'disease' went into remission, perhaps a distraction came into your life for a period of time. Perhaps there was a temporary motivation that was strong enough to 'overcome' this sin. But then things just went awry. Maybe you fell in love. With the wrong person. And your world comes crashing down again. But this time, you can't stand up and say that you've fallen. No, it's gotta be a secret. Because to the rest of the Christian community, you've 'recovered', right?
Disease. Such an ugly word, isn't it? We call things like homosexuality and anorexia a disease, but do we really understand how much it hurts the person who is subjected to this label? To not only have to deal with hating yourself for being who you are, but to also have to cope with being given the diagnosis of 'suffering' from this 'disease'.
I felt a similar pressure when I tried to quit smoking. Yes, it's minor compared to the struggle which Julie's reader faced. But it was almost impossible to announce to the rest of the world that I had given up my attempt to quit and that I had started smoking again. I even felt the need to justify why I wanted to smoke. And the next thing that people wanted to know was: When are you going to quit again?
Yes, I fully understand that all this is well meant. People want to see you overcome your weaknesses. Friends want to rejoice with you when you grow stronger. They want to see you 'walking on the right path'. But how can we find a balance between encouraging a person to 'get better' (and what if they don't want to get better?), and discouraging a person from sharing their struggles in the first place?
Tell me, because I have no clue.
Image from Imagine Me & You