Couples with long-term, happy marriages are volunteering their stories for my book, identifying that the key to their redemptive relationship is to “BE REAL”.
All the couples I’ve talked with have shared how they felt comfortable exposing their joys and sorrows to each other early in their relationship. One couple said, “It was important for us to know if we liked each other. If we weren’t being totally honest, how would we ever know?”
Too often in the past, I’ve been embarrassed by my insecurities and tried to cover them up with a false image of perfection, holding back any criticism, wanting desperately to be liked. I’d hold back any anger, sadness or emotion trying to be the “perfect date”. After all, I thought men liked things to just “work” in a relationship without any undue drama. I could maintain that carefree image of “perfect” for a few months, or even years, but eventually my “false self” was exposed.
Tim Keller relates putting on a “false self” to worshiping Counterfeit Gods. Keller provides a litany of examples of false gods in today’s society that we then make into our false selves, things like family and children, career and making money, achievement and critical acclaim, or saving “face” and social standing. It can be a romantic relationship, peer approval, competency and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty, your brains, a great political or social cause, your morality and virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry. We can even make an idol out of trying to fix someone else’s life, and when we are no longer needed by the other person, we are plunged into irrevocable despair.
Keller goes on to say that the worst time in our life is when our false self is threatened. We respond in one of three ways: either by wallowing in despair and trying at all costs to regain our false self, replacing one false self with another (like plunging ourselves into volunteer work when we lose our job), or by turning to Jesus, where we have everything we really need.
I started believing that I really am a child of God, made in His image, and loved by Him with grace and mercy.
I don’t need to be anyone else but me.
Now I am not afraid to show emotion, sadness, and to speak up with my opinion. I trust God to direct my relationships, not me. I have the freedom to BE REAL in a relationship and expect a genuine TRUE SELF in the other person.
BE REAL. That is where all good, lasting relationships start.
Blessings, my friend,