It happened again. Another person asked how homeschooled kids can possibly hope to cope in the “real world.” I wanted to bang my head. Because if you pulled a publicly educated kid from the Bronx and set that kid in rural Iowa, he’d be a mess. He wouldn’t know how to deal with that real world. And if you took that small-town Iowa girl and plopped her in the middle of Beijing, she’d be totally lost and confused. Yet, that world of Beijing is the real world to the citizens there. It’s like I said in Past Forward, when Chad is talking to his father about Willow’s isolation:
“The force has taught me that there are a lot of different ‘real worlds’ out there. The rich kids don’t have a clue about life in the inner city real world. The town of Fairbury interacts in the big city, but they don’t really know what it’s like to live there. And then there’s Willow. If you don’t do it yourself to survive, then she’s clueless.”
You know how Chad says that—about everyone’s “real world” being different than everyone else’s? It’s true. I’ve said it for years. My “real world” isn’t poverty, single parenting, starvation, or the corporate world. The fact that it IS a reality for others doesn’t make my “real world” any less real than mine makes theirs… less real, I mean.
And, because I am convinced I have some form of ADD, that spiraled into another train of thought. “Being real.”
The Pitfalls of Being Real and How to Combat Them
We’ve all seen it. Some mom posts a picture of her kid’s party, the results of her canning labors (sans the disaster behind her), her kid’s honor roll slip. Another woman only posts pictures of herself and her family smiling and out doing things together. Another woman posts a picture of the mess her toddler made on the otherwise pristine kitchen floor. All single ice cream dollop of a mess. Whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a message board, a blog, or even in person at a Bible study or mom’s night out—it happens. Someone just shares a piece of his or her life (let’s face it though, it’s usually a “her”), and the claws come out.
The killer is, it’s not right away.
Unlike my fake convo up there (which one of my launch team members saw and was way confused about, I might add), a lot of this happens off-post or several days later. The issue? Being “real.” There’s usually a target for these things, but in the interest of “Vaguebooking,” that target is unmentioned but often clearly identified. You know, kind of like how “Mr. Collins,” in the modern, Mormon version of Pride & Prejudice, “outs” Lizzy in church.
“Let’s call her… Elizabeth B. No, no. E. Bennet.”
I’d like to think the pain just builds until someone rants, not realizing they’ve just pointed a finger at someone they usually call a friend. I’d like to think that. I’ve also seen that it isn’t necessarily true. And that breaks my heart. We claim to value “real-ness” in today’s society. But the truth is, half the time, what we mean by that is we value seeing just how messed up everyone else is. We want to feel better about ourselves by seeing how maybe we aren’t quite so pathetic as we thought. No one wants to be alone in her pain.
Look, I get it. I do. Sometimes you need to know you aren’t as pathetic as you feel. And yes, there are definitely people out there putting up a false front to hide their true lives. But can’t you see? Those people are hurting just as much as you are. And putting their pain on display for the world… how can anyone who calls herself a Christian possibly justify that in light of Philippians 4:8 or 1 Corinthians 13? How?
Pitfalls of being real:
- Usually, when people share posts about themselves, they include other people—people who may not appreciate having their failures advertised to the world. You may see Susy the Parenting Guru’s lack of tell-all posting about her kids as fake. She may see it as showing respect for them. Not putting something out there that CAN NEVER BE GOTTEN BACK.
- It’s like gossip, you can destroy someone’s reputation—even your own—by being indiscriminate about what you share.
- For people who are out for juicy bits, no amount of “reality” will be enough. That monster has a voracious and insatiable appetite.
- Practically speaking, you can kill employment opportunities if your social media is full of indiscriminate negative posting about your life or the lives of others. It makes you suspect in the minds of potential employers
- That negative, just like all the fun, shiny bits, is just one tiny piece of the puzzle. And just like the shiny bits, it tends to paint a broad picture of your life. Do you really want the world to think that you ONLY have children who reduce you to tears? Will the world see your disaster movie inspired home “decor” as the result of a whirlwind weekend with 12 pre-pubescent boys having run of the place? Really? No, when they think of your house, that’s ALL they see.
- You can actually convince yourself that you have a terrible life when all you do is focus on the negative.
Look, it’s a negative world out there.
Ever watch the news? I rest my case. And I am not calling for us to be disingenuous! Not in the least. But maybe, just maybe, we can allow ourselves a little grace and focus on what we need to focus on to get us through this messy thing called life.
Jane needs to feel “real” and put it all out there. And that’s her prerogative. But if Marla says, “Nope. I’m not going to share my fights with my husband, the way my kids trashed the house when I was sick, and the aftermath of the tornado otherwise known as my toddler. I’m going to focus on JOY… that’s okay, too.
Give grace. Please, sisters. For the love that Jesus showed us in His dealings with our pathetic selves, show grace. Accept that someone is different. It’s allowed! It’s okay.
C’mon. I’m all for transparency. I mean, I’m pretty much an open book. But when the page in the book is about my kid, and my kid wouldn’t want his or her life screenshot for the world to read, I turn it until it’s my story to share.
Transparency is beautiful until you’re standing naked and ashamed before the whole world.
How do we combat the frustrations and fears that come when we feel like no one is being “real” and we’re alone in our very raw reality?
- Why don’t you ask “Perfect Pam” if she ever has a bad day? Don’t ask her to air her dirty laundry in front of her two thousand closest “friends.” Just call her. Tell her you’re having an inferior moment. Be REAL with her. And then maybe, just maybe she’ll be real with you.
Put a call out on social media. Use that social media in a positive way. ASK people to share a picture of their dinner. And then, ask if they’re brave enough to show their kitchens, too—after all that meal prep. And then when someone posts a reasonably clean kitchen, ASK how she made a beautiful, three-course meal without a mess. She might just have a solution that’ll save you hours of work. It doesn’t mean she isn’t being real. It’s that her reality is different than yours. And that’s okay!
- Be willing to make that first move. You don’t have to show your six-foot-high pile of laundry, your dirty toilet, your car that looks like you’ve lived in it for the past six weeks (because for all intents and purposes, you have!). You don’t have to show how the weeds killed your entire garden except for one tomato plant with one perfect tomato. You don’t. It is no less true that you grew one beautiful tomato than it is true that you killed everything else. Show what you’re comfortable with, but show grace when others aren’t.
- It sounds trite, but pray before you confront. And when you do, go in private to talk to someone. If you can’t get past what you see as dishonesty, then talk to your friend. Ask her about it. Share your struggles. But before you do any of it, pray. Make sure your eyes aren’t blinded by the beams you have protruding from them.
But above all,
- Remember the full picture. The woman showing all the beauty of her life has ugliness. Yes. And the woman focused on all the ugliness in hers? Yeah. She has beauty there. There’s a huge picture that is none of our business. Show a little Matthew 7:12 mercy there. It goes a long way. A very long way.