by Amy White—
I stared into my coffee cup, not really wanting to look back at my computer screen. A mentor had challenged me to sit with my shame, so I sat there and fidgeted, imagining I had pulled up a chair and invited my feelings to the table. A place card seemed like a bit much, but I knew I had to name it if I was going to move forward.
On this particular day my shame was calling me unworthy. An article I’d written was being torn to pieces by an editor; I didn’t have any words for a hard, looming conversation with the 8-year-old foster child in my care; and he’d had a three-hour fit the night before that ended with me yelling at him to stop punching the wall. My shame said: I wasn’t a good enough writer, and I wasn’t a good enough foster parent for him.
I felt less-than. My house was a mess; my yard was a mess; my refrigerator was empty; and I had no clue how I was going to meet my next major deadline. My shame said: I was failing as an adult, and I was failing at my job.
I felt like a burden because I had taken on more than I could handle and needed to ask for help. I had tried to clothe myself in autonomy, and as it was stripped away, I felt exposed.
And I was exposed. Light and truth will do that. But the longer I faced it honestly, the more apparent it was that I had not, in fact, been exposed as a failure or a burden—I was just human. So I inched a little further into the light.
A few years ago one of my best friends had looked me in the eyes and quite bluntly reminded me I didn’t have to be perfect. It was another instance of me not living up to my own impossible standard. “Look,” he had said. “You think you’re pretty awful, and it’s true. Sometimes you’re pretty awful. But so is everyone, and mostly you’re pretty great.” He saw me. He accepted me. It was okay.
So I tried to see myself through my friend’s eyes as I struggled to finish the email. He doesn’t care what my house looks like, and he certainly knows I can get overwhelmed enough to yell, but he still chooses to be around me.
I needed to choose that too. Because “mostly pretty great” means sometimes I host dinner parties with white lights and fancy beer, and sometimes I dump the tortilla chip crumbs into the salsa jar and eat them with a spoon. Sometimes I send people really thoughtful birthday gifts, and sometimes I send 99-cent cards more than a few weeks late. And sometimes I have plenty of patience and compassion when others are hurting, and sometimes I don’t give enough hugs at the end of the day.
The longer I sat with that truth, the more the ground shook. But I wasn’t the one shaking; it was my idol that was about to topple. That happens every time I put my hope in something other than love and grace and truth. The idol always falls.
When not traveling or making food with friends, Amy White serves as senior editor of GEMS Girls’ Clubs— equipping women and girls to live radically faithful lives.
This article is excerpted from the October 2017 issue of Gather magazine. To read the full story or more like it, subscribe to Gather.