The Messy Truth

The Power of Authenticity and Vulnerability

Today I am going to start something new. Well, in actuality, I guess I am really continuing something old. I want to start posting some Throwback Thursday posts on my blog. These will be posts I have shared in years gone by that you may not have had a chance to read. Our first #throwbackbackthursday talks about messy truths and Instagram. I think this is a fitting way to kick off this collection of posts.

The Instagram Surprise

Instagram, while currently very popular, originally caught many of us by surprise. Who would have thought that an app that distorts your already low-quality cell phone images in an effort to create social media hipster art would become America’s favorite place to view pictures of each other’s kids, pets, and yes, even “selfies?”

At the time of this writing, there are over 200 million active users in the photo-sharing network. After only two years of existence, and without generating any income through ads, Instagram sold for $1 billion. That’s a big deal for an app that limits your pics to a square on your cell phone and was mostly used from its inception by people in skinny jeans and ironic shirts to take pictures of their lattes. 

It’s now common to see people both old and young taking pictures of their food at restaurants, and holding their phones high in the air with the screen facing towards them to make sure they get everyone in for that perfect selfie. I have always enjoyed taking pictures and personally took to the fun photo app, well, instantly.

Not everyone was impressed right away though. One friend of mine refused to get on the Instagram bandwagon at first because “putting a grainy filter and adding torn edges to an already horrible photo doesn’t make it creative or art.” He now regularly posts pics of his kids and food. No “selfies” yet though…. It’s only a matter of time.

The Perfect Selfie

For a long time, I have treated the truth of my experiences, disappointments, and failures like Instagram. I have gone out of my way to give the best presentation I can. This requires that I cut out parts of my story, the panoramic view that includes the pain and doubts, in order to fit it in only what I think people want to see; the perfectly filtered little square that is easy to “like.”

No one wants that surprise pic of them just waking up posted online. We want to keep retaking the photo until we get just the right image. Then we slip that perfect filter on there to give it that nice little extra touch. Everything looks perfect. Our lives appear so wonderful, but we lose something in the process – authenticity.

It’s the same way in life. Just as there are different filters for whatever picture you would like to post online, there are also different layers of the truth you generally share with others. 

For some people, life is just a bowl of cherries. You go from one mountaintop to the other, and I’m so happy that you have that going for you. The rest of us though have to walk through valleys in-between our mountaintops. We don’t need a lesson on how to live life on the peak. We need something that is going to get us through the valley.

Authenticity and Vulnerability

Authenticity and vulnerability are what give that to people, but it comes at a risk. The risk is rejection, and possibly some of your pride. The reward is a strength you never knew you had, and freedom to be exactly who you were made to be – an imperfect child of God that walks in the peace of knowing you are His. This liberates you from the weighty limitation of trying to maintain everyone else’s expectations. This is the battle that I had to overcome before I could start sharing my fish out of church story. I have honestly, never stopped wrestling with it.

It was while with a friend in downtown Baton Rouge when I think I first decided to step past this barrier and share my journey in a vulnerable way. We had our cameras with us and were exploring places to take photographs. As the conversation progressed, he eventually asked me why I left the ministry. I told him it was never my intention to be out of the church world, but I that I was glad things didn’t work out the way I planned.

My Messy Truth

Then, instead of putting a filter on things, and summing it up in a way where we could both end the conversation with, “Praise the Lord!” and a smile, I began to share with him my messy truth. I talked about my doubts, disappointments, and unanswered questions. I didn’t share the promises I was standing on at the time, because I had lost my ability to do anything but kneel a long time ago. 

We talked about how I didn’t know what was next, and how things would end, but that I have never felt more satisfied in my relationship with God, and with who I was becoming in the process. He listened unconditionally. He didn’t give advice about where I had obviously fallen short, or how he would have done it differently to avoid some of my wrong turns. Instead, he offered support. At one point he even said, “I hope you are writing this down. This could be a book!” I had thought about writing my story down for others before, but his encouragement that day is what pushed me over the edge. After this conversation, I began to wonder if what I had experienced could encourage others who were in a valley themselves, or ready for a new way of looking at their religious comfort zone.

There is a place for discretion and even Instagram filters. I am all for that. Sometimes though, I want to know what is going on outside of the square. I want the Imax version of the story. The messy truth can leave the hearer flabbergasted. It may even confront their own lack of authenticity, and cause them to reject you. The messy truth does not say how you want things to be; it just says how they are. It is the unwrapped present, the selfie without the filter or the posing. It leaves things hanging. When you are finished sharing the messy truth there are usually more questions than answers. It’s real, raw, but it is also refreshing when Christ is in the center of it.

37 Things I Have Learned Over The Years

Today is my birthday. It is also the day I started my blog 5 years ago. So I wanted to write a post on some valuable and also silly lessons I have learned over the years. Topics will range from leadership to bathroom etiquette, from driving to family life, and wisdom on forgiveness to restaurant advice.

Be warned: I am still testing some of these things to see if they are beneficial long term… Read ahead at your own risk!

37 Life Hacks

  1. 75% of vacuuming out your car is shaking the floor mats out.
  2. Never stop in a merge lane of traffic.
  3. Never use your horn when you’re angry. You could end up parking next to the person you honked at in the church parking lot. It has happened to me.
  4. Only use your horn when something dangerous is about to happen (like someone who is stopped in the merge lane of traffic. haha)
  5. Never follow someone into the traffic of life who likes to toot their own horn. They don’t really know where they’re going. They just can’t feel good about themselves without other people telling them how great they are.
  6. 90% of being liked by others is keeping your mouth shut. I guess that’s why blogger don’t have many friends. lol (I am LOL-ing on the outside by crying on the inside. lol, but seriously…)
  7. You can be silent, and people think you are an idiot or you can open your mouth and remove all doubt. – Wayne Austin (I believe)
  8. Giving a compliment is never a bad idea.
  9. Giving a backhanded compliment is never ever a good idea. For example: “You look great for someone who just had a birthday!” Just stop at, “You look pretty great!”
  10. A good rule of thumb is to be generous with what you say and with what you don’t say.
  11. The toilet paper roll should always land over the front. If it is under then it rests against the wall. This means there’s a chance a contaminated hand will touch the wall trying to grab it. Over not under people!
  12. Always wait for someone in front of you to open the bathroom door, so you don’t have to touch it. UNLESS there are paper towels available and a trashcan by the door. Then you can use the paper towel to open the door and toss it in the can.
  13. When changing a baby’s diaper, always have the second diaper already under the old diaper. You never know what can come out of those little things at any moment.
  14. When you take your kids to the park push them on the swing every time they ask. They will only ask for so long and then that time is gone forever.
  15. Treat your spouse how you want your kids’ future spouse to treat them. They’ll most likely marry someone similar to you.
  16. Give everyone in your house a nickname and positive sayings specific to each person. Too many homes have negative labels and negative traits (given sarcastically even) associated with each person. Multiple times a week I tell each of the girls in our house these things: Amy: You are bold, beautiful, and brilliant. Sophie: You are sweet, smart, sensitive, and strong, Gracie: You are gorgeous, genius, gentle, and full of grit.
  17. Always let your kids interrupt you when you are at home to listen to their ideas or to be part of their plans or when they get older they may not allow you to interrupt them to be part of your ideas and plans.
  18. Affirm, hug, and kiss your daughters so much that they will never want to look for those things in the wrong place.
  19. If you are not greeted in the first 10 seconds of a sit-down restaurant, you are better off leaving. They don’t have to sit you, but if they don’t at least acknowledge you, then you are in for an awful dinner.
  20. The restaurant bathroom tells you what the restaurant kitchen looks like. Don’t expect what they know you can’t see to be clean if what they know you can see is dirty.
  21. Never put lemon or lime in your water. Always squeeze it and then discard. You don’t know what was on the surface where they sliced it. It was also most likely not cleaned before or after being cut.
  22. Always tip more generously than you think you should. People are not serving you because you are so special. They are doing it because they have to. If they are having a bad night, you don’t know what is happening at home, what kind of manager they have, or who in the kitchen is giving them a hard time.
  23. Always be willing to give retail and restaurants a perfect score on the surveys they send you. Those things can really hurt or help someone. My rule of thumb is that if I would give them a 3 out of 5, then I’d go ahead and give them a 5. If that person were already a 5 at my expectations, then they’d probably be doing something else.
  24. Here is a trick I have learned to remember whose cup is whose when refilling my wife’s drink and mine at the same time. I always put my cup in my left hand, and Amy’s in my right hand because my wife is always right!
  25. Whenever you go to a restaurant, and there is a long wait just go to the bar area and look for an open seat at a bistro table. I can’t tell you how many lines I have skipped that way and you usually get the full menu there too.
  26. Speaking of skipping lines…. This is one of my favorite traffic trips of all time but may take a minute to explain and a couple of tries for you to master. If there is particular lane of traffic that always builds up at light before a turn (Acadian and Perkins before I-10 in Baton Rouge or the U-turn at 280 and Valleydale in Birmingham, but really anytime there is one lane that builds up, and there are fewer cars  in the lane next to the one with the build-up) here is what you do. Get in the shorter lane to the left and skip everyone so that you are the first one at the light next to the long line of traffic. Then one of two things will happen once the light turns green (look the other driver in the eye before it turns green, and you can typically predict what is going to happen). Just floor it. If they aren’t paying attention, then you can just pull in front of them and then continue traveling at a safe speed. The second scenario is my favorite though. Sometimes people will know what you are up to and don’t want to let you pass. Here is the solution. Still, just floor it. When they speed up as well allow them to create some distance between themselves and the car behind them. Then slow down and just get behind them. They’ll never expect it. Then laugh because now you and they both know you win no matter what. In case you are wondering this is about winning not about traffic.
  27. Always have the last word in marriage when there is a disagreement. And that word is, “Yes, dear.”
  28. When you are fighting with your spouse (something I have never done, yeah right!), always be the first to ask for forgiveness. In marriage, it doesn’t matter who is right or who is wrong. It really doesn’t. No matter how big of a deal you think it is in the moment, just ask for forgiveness, and you will both be happy in 24 hours. In 48 hours you probably won’t remember the argument (unless you’re a jerk and in that case, I can’t help you).
  29. Anytime you say sorry, and add a but, you are not apologizing. You are just using the guise of an apology to be a butt. For example, “I’m sorry, but you are always so rude to me.” WRONG!
  30. When you apologize, and you add an “if” at the end, you are not really apologizing. You are cheapening the person who perceives you have wronged them with a partial apology. For example, “I apologize “if” I hurt your feelings.” If you are going through the effort to say you are sorry, then you might as well just own it completely and move on, “I am sorry “FOR” hurting your feelings.”
  31. In our home, we don’t say we are sorry, and we don’t say it’s ok in response. Both of those sort of dismiss the bigger issue while only temporarily keeping the peace. We ask for forgiveness, and then we offer forgiveness in return. In my opinion, that is the only way to fully take responsibility for an offense and to truly release someone from it. For example, “Please forgive me for hurting you with what I said.” And then “I forgive you for that.” You will be surprised how hard it is to say, “I forgive you” instead of “It’s no big deal,” when you have been the one wronged, but it truly helps to put things behind you both.
  32. Last one on forgiveness and apologies… Never be the person who needs an apology from someone else. If you are waiting around for someone to make your life better with an apology you will probably find more happiness in general by just moving on then waiting for everyone to make things right with you. I’d always rather be the person who has to say, “Please forgive me,” then be the person who needs to hear it. Be generous and forgive others just as God has generously forgiven you!
  33. Meekness is not weakness and arrogance is not strength. Arrogance is weakness out of control and meekness is true strength under control.
  34. Live by, “others may, I cannot” instead of “others may, why can’t I?”
  35. “I’d rather be a wet water walker than a a dry boat rider.” – Tony Foster
  36. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot
  37. Realize you are the hero in your story. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim that needs to be rescued or a sidekick stuck in codependence. Ask yourself, if your life was a novel, what would the hero in the story do next? Would they go back? Probably not. Would they go forward into the unknown? Probably. Would they only look out for themselves or would risk their elevation to elevate someone else. God gets the glory when you point to him as you live successfully.

What are your top life hacks? I’d like to hear them!