One of the most terrifying experiences for me was when I began to let others know about my hopes, dreams, fears, and painful past. The amount of risk this entailed required me to find the courage I had never thought possible. The risk of being hurt was the barrier that kept me at arm’s length with others for many years. To depend on someone, only to possibly be shamed by them when I needed them to extend empathy felt impossible. The two questions that resounded in my head all those years were, “Will they embrace me in my pain or cruelly push me away?” And, “when they see me for who I really am will they reject me? “
To truly depend on another is a bit like the game that I believe is called “trust fall.” You cross your arms in front of you then fall back with the belief someone is going to catch you. My fear was no one would be there to catch me if I trusted them with my heart. So I would just opt out of the opportunity for intimacy or turn the tables and attempt to care for them. Having been hurt badly in my childhood through physical and verbal abuse it seemed like madness to trust another with my heart. The world seemed like a dangerous place to me so intimacy was difficult to find.
Shutting down my feelings and shutting others out altogether are actually telltale signs of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. In my refusing help and actively pushing people away I sought comfort through several addictions that never provided the intimacy I hungered for from another.
I can remember after one of my most traumatic childhood incidents thinking to myself, “I don’t ever want to feel that weak and powerless again.” The end result of all my protecting was I became isolated and left to deal with the demons of my past alone.
I was only able to succeed at overcoming my past by letting people; especially those I had known for many years, get close to me.
Intimacy is an act of courage. Remember, I was terrified of falling and no one catching me? The more I avoided that act, avoided intimacy with others, only made that prospect of letting others get close more terrifying.
I became strong when I finally chose weakness and an act of courage to share my fears and my pain. I took a leap of faith to seek comfort and to be held up by these loving and caring friends. I let them see all of me at my most vulnerable. And while none of this was easy, it is what I had to do to get free of my shame and fear. The payoff was the world and the people in it became a less frightening place.
In my search for intimacy, I found grace, not just from God but from others also. The apostle Paul tells us that Christ’s power rests on us when we choose weakness.