the spiritual practice of showing up & telling the truth

vulnerability is holywikipedia defines a spiritual practice as “the regular or full-time performance of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of cultivating spiritual development.”  my working definition of a spiritual practice is an action or process or intention that opens up our soul and challenges, heals, and transforms us.”

june’s synchroblog is today & the topic is ordinary courage.  the awesome & amazing brene brown says, “courage originally meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. heroics are important and we certainly need heroes, but i think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. heroics are often about putting our life on the line. ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.”

oh, that lovely but cringe-worthy word–vulnerability.  my guess is that if you’re like me, you have a love-hate thing with it.  it’s brutal, it’s hard, it’s risky, it’s scary to share our real hearts and let ourselves be known in a raw way. and it’s also freeing. empowering. healing. transforming.

years ago a friend told me a little something her therapist shared that i always remember.  part of becoming more loving, more free people is learning how to:

1. show up

2. tell the truth

3. trust God.

4. let go of the outcome.

show up, tell the truth, trust God, let go of the outcome.

i think of these all the time, especially when i am in one of those spots (which i often am) where all i can think of is running for the hills and doing whatever-i-possibly-can-to-avoid-pain.  i am always reminded these 4 things are are a lot like other good-things-for-us & spiritual practices–easy to talk about and really hard to do.

there’s no way to do these 4 things without feeling scared. without resistance. without a do-we-really-have-to-do-this? feeling.

but unless we show up, we’ve got nothing to work with.  we need to be in the room, to be eye to eye, to be in the conversation, to be present, to bring our body & our mind & our soul to the same place as best we can. it’s so much easier to hide, to stay quiet, to hang in the back, to disengage, to guard our hearts.

then, tell the truth. i’d change the wording here and say “tell our truth.”  i think this is probably one of the hardest skills in the whole wide world to learn. so many of us are disconnected from our feelings, we critique all our thoughts, we do all kinds of nutty things in our head that discount our truth. being honest is one of the bravest things we can do this side of heaven. saying “this is what’s going on for me, this is how i am feeling, this is the crazy stuff swirling on in my head, this is what i am afraid of, this is what i want, this is what God is stirring up in me, this is what i am confused about, this is what i dream for” is truly courageous.

next is trust God. yeah, that can be freaky in all kinds of ways, especially for those of us who think we might know better than God what would be a good outcome. or who have all kinds of reasons to think that maybe God might not be trustworthy.  but i do think our best hope is taking a breath after we show up & tell the truth and trust that God is in the midst of whatever we just showed up & told the truth about. that we’re not alone in it, that we’re not abandoned completely, that somehow, someway, God is at work.

and lastly, the one that does a lot of us control freaks in– let go of the outcome.  loosening our grip, letting go of control, realizing we can’t take care of all of the ins and outs of what happens once we show up and tell the truth is really scary–and wonderfully freeing.  for those of us who thrive on control (as in me), letting go of an outcome is so good  because it forces me to reckon with the most important part of vulnerability–i can’t control it. it can’t be managed. it can’t be contained. it can’t be tamed.

when i think of ordinary courage & vulnerability, i think of these 4 things, but i do think they are sort of extra-ordinary, too, because of how hard they are to do. i think of how helpful they have been in helping me stay in when i want to run.

i think of how they really are a spiritual practice because they open up my soul and challenge, heal, and transform me.

yeah, showing up & telling the truth is hard.  

but showing up & telling the truth is really holy, too.

//

so many great posts to check out! here are the links to other bloggers writing about ordinary courage, too:

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

42 Comments

  • Amazingly timely, Kathy! You wrote my life in these words: “all i can think of is running for the hills and doing
    whatever-i-possibly-can-to-avoid-pain.” Sigh.

    Reply
  • Pingback: Loving Courageously | Religious Refuse
  • Yeah i hear the thing about the pain. What I have learnt is that we all have pain because we all have had hurst in life and there is this armour that we naturally have. I recall you talking about the walls you say in the middle east and about us all having walls of some kind Kathy.

    And that if we look past the pain and go the the edge of it, being kind to ourselves and having compassion we can have healing. Sometimes there may be issues that come up that need to be addressed through doing that. What I have learnt in Chritian meditation is that pain does rise up. And some give up because they don’t want to expereince that pain. But i have found it to be freeing, humbling, a release to practice such.

    I know Brene Brwon also talks about a “vulnerability hangover”. And I know when I have allowed mysefl to be over vulnerable what has happened at such times. I have learnt to be obedient to Christ, guard my heart and learn what a healthy level of vulnerbility is such that niehter walls and personal armour are up or that I a so vulnerable that I leave myself unprotected, but what is righ for me so I have healthy boundaries and level of vulnerablility an the armour i use is God’s armour.

    Now I don’t always get this right, and this is where the compassion for myself comes in, the loving kindness and also the discipline to keep going. But i am finding that it is worth the hard work and taking the courage to be this way.

    I hope that is helpful, an encouragement and a challange.

    Reply
  • This is so helpful, Kathy. We simply can’t avoid pain. If we run away from it in one direction, we’re just as likely to find it there waiting for us when we stop running. To feel is to be human. The trick is not let the pain rule or “win” and to not pretend like we don’t have it. “Letting go of the outcomes” can apply to apologies and forgiveness as well.

    Reply
    • thanks doreen, yeah, that is so true on the amends and forgiveness pieces as well. so easy to move toward it hoping to get something out of it instead of just doing it because it’s the right thing to do and letting go of getting anything back.

      Reply
  • Letting go of the outcome is definitely the hardest part. But y’know, I’ve found most of the time the outcome is that people really don’t care, or don’t care enough. And while on the one hand that’s frustrating and disappointing (especially when we want something to happen), on the other hand it means all the worst-case scenarios playing out in our minds are really baseless.

    Reply
    • that is so true, sometimes we make it all out to be more about us than it really is, at least that is my default. thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  • Yep, been running for the hills all week. Thanks for challenging me to stop running. Great advice especially the “let go of the outcome” part. I have never been very good at that one.

    Reply
  • Great post, as always, Kathy. We all like to think we trust God but the true test of that is that we don’t worry about the outcome. Reminds me of 1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.

    Reply
  • “my guess is that if you’re like me, you have a love-hate thing with it.” <—- ummmmmmm, yeah, about that. So good. Vulnerability saved my life, no doubt. It makes me tear up thinking how had I not chosen this route, how sad things would still be for me inside. Along with being a safer person, I feel like my future children have more of a chance at health. I feel like dealing with my S^%$, showing up and telling my truth, my, er, holy, practice of vulnerability makes me a waaaaaaay better therapist. At least once a day, I am aware of how having my insides and outsides match more positively impacts my ability to be present. There are no words that adequately share gratitude for helping this velveteen rabbit lose her fur. 🙂

    Reply
  • I love this post. In fact, I’m going to bookmark it so that I can go back and re-read it along with some of the links. I would add one thing – be kind. Too often I think that people justify their harshness as “truth-telling” but if it doesn’t serve a helpful purpose, some things are better left unsaid. I find this to be especially true on the internet where people can hide behind the anonymity of the computer (I suppose that kind of violates #1 – showing up). I received a particularly mean-spirited comment to my recent HuffPost article that was definitely not constructive criticism nor did it move the conversation forward. Perhaps I need to “let go of the outcome” better. In any event, I really liked this post. Thank you.

    Reply
    • thanks christine. i’d love to see the link to your post. i don’t keep up very well over there so let me know. yeah, it’s amazing, the brazen rudeness people have sometimes on the internet, it’s crazy. i think blogging has been one of the best things i have ever done to help practice this next to real-life-community. it’s so vulnerable out here!

      Reply
  • Thanks Kathy. One of the most vulnerable places I’m in at times is apologizing for behavior(s) that do not reflect my recovery or supposed maturity. It brings the old
    shame stuff up…ugh. Letting go of the outcome is what makes vulnerability so hard at times. My sponsor always says after showing up, telling the truth, making amends..’ Does it feel ‘clean’? ‘ If it doesn’t there’s some unfinished business. After all is said and done…it’s time to let go, turn it over and trust God that He will work all things together for good ….and He does!

    Reply
  • Great post, as always, Kathy.

    I really struggle with the “telling truth” part, not because I think it is unnecessary, but because I fear that my telling the truth will not be done in a loving way. So often, I just keep my mouth shut.

    But I REALLY like how you phrased this as “telling our truth.” Telling the truth isn’t necessarily pointing out the sin in others, but is simply being honest about our own struggles and failures. THAT I can do.

    Reply
    • Thank you for mentioning fear of, concern for, telling the truth that will not be done in a loving way. And, I think that you added, telling the truth isn’t necessarily pointing out the sin in others, always needs to be held in very close relationship to that concern about telling truth that may not be done in a loving way. Many of us suffer deep woundings from someone justifying telling something that hurt us or others, may even haven been intended and told for the very intent to hurt, with “but it’s the truth!”
      I try to keep in mind several ‘test’ questions to ask myself before I tell something that I may know is true, that could affect someone else. 1, might it hurt that person or someone else if told? and 2, is there any real reason, any valid purpose, to it being told?

      Reply
  • A have a friend who pretends that he tells the truth, but no one takes it seriously. He tells some half-truths about himself, but he does it with a tone of voice, that allows other people to say half-truths too… but the important thing is: a half-truth is a lie.

    I have worked for years to practice and master authenticity, the telling of the whole truth, the uncomfortable truth, the truth that I’d rather that people don’t know about me.

    At first what prompted me in that are two things: 1. I was tired of hiding, and living a life where I was one way in public and another way in private. I wanted a seamless life, I wanted to live a life where my life was transparent, and who I was was the same no matter who I talked to, where I was, alone or with others. 2. As a coach I needed to be an example for my clients, I needed to demonstrate truth-telling, self-awareness, distinguishing the hidden ugliness that was driving my actions.

    By now I think I am the most proud, of all my accomplishments, of this: being able to be authentic, and authentic about my inauthenticity… so that I can live a life of no anxiety, no anguish, no fear, no guilt. I have accomplished that… and your article reminded me to celebrate it. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Hi Kathy, it’s been a long time since you wrote this post, but today is Thanksgiving (at least in the US) and I felt the urge to tell you that I’m thankful for what you wrote here – it really helped me in the last few months. I read your post during a time when I was preparing to “tell my truth” in a very vulnerable way – coming out of the closet this past August, and telling people I would no longer be able to pastor in our denomination since I hoped to marry a woman. (My girlfriend and I will be married next May.)

    While my close friends and family had known I was gay for some time, I had to tell everyone in my little church plant, my community at the Christian non-profit I work for, and a bunch of other acquaintances. Before several of these gut-wrenchingly fear-filled conversations, I was able to calm myself down by returning to your words: “show up, tell the truth, trust God, let go of the outcome.” Miraculously, the outcome was often beautiful and friendship-deepening, even in cases when I feared I would lose friends for good.

    I continue to cherish your words whenever I face difficult conversations. Hoping you’re having a great Thanksgiving with your community!

    Reply
    • oh beth, i can’t believe i forgot to respond to this but it came on thanksgiving and i forgot to in all of the hubub! i am so grateful for you sharing this. and congratulations on your wedding next year and your courage, too, to show up and tell your truth. my heart is with you from afar and it is just so encouraging to hear this beautiful treasure!

      Reply
  • Pingback: Showing Up Honestly |

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *