The Fear of Friendship

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If you know me, you’ve probably heard me laugh. That’s because I don’t hold back. I’m not stingy with my laughs and I can go from a chuckle to a guffaw in seconds. I’m an appreciator of funny.

More and more, though, I see the value in shared laughter.

You know, laughing with friends and family–people who get you and love you. This is not only a joy, it’s a basic human need. Meeting this need, however, requires a not-so-basic step: vulnerability.

Vulnerability is tough. And, honestly, something I shy away from.

It’s why I dance with abandon in front of my sisters but not in public. Who wants to see a 2×4 wiggle? It’s why you may talk to your spouse about what you’re going through but answer, “Great!” to the dreaded, “How are you?” when asked by a close friend.

For years, I failed to see the connection between vulnerability and laughter. Surely I can have a good time without being my true self, I thought. So I nodded along in agreement to whatever was said, held back when I wanted to have fun, smiled when I was sad. I did whatever it took to appear sweet and agreeable.

I had plenty of friends. Still, the question was this: Do you like me?

It wasn’t a question I asked out loud, but one the played on repeat in my head. Do you like me? How funny that I wasn’t even wondering if they liked me–the real me. And because I never actually asked, I answered it myself. They probably don’t like the fake me, and they definitely wouldn’t like the real me. Welcome to my pity party. ;)

Then, a few years ago, Eric and I traveled to San Francisco. Mid-trip, we drove to Yosemite, stopping along the way to see an old friend, Steve. Steve is a photographer with a project called, “What I Be.” The aim is vulnerability. With a Sharpie, you reveal your greatest insecurity and declare that it won’t define you. The project is so inspiring! We decided to participate.

The question always on my mind is the one I chose to write on my face.

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I remember the twitch in my lip as his camera clicked. This picture still makes me cringe.

Many of the photos in Steve’s project have this effect on me. Seeing the insecurity of others displayed so boldly–especially those that disagree with my worldview–is an uncomfortable feeling. But that’s okay.

I’m learning that vulnerability is powerful. Not the kind found online–where people announce every detail for the world to see. Not even now, where I’m sharing something personal with an absent audience.

I’m talking about the vulnerability of face-to-face interaction. Because this is where laughter happens. Oh sure, I laughed before. I’m a chronic–and loud–laugher. As I’ve grown in this area of my life, though, something’s changed. The laughs mean more and the results stick around a little longer.

This is just the beginning. There’s so much more I need to learn and apply in my relationships. That’s why I’m grateful that He’s still working on me.

*I’m curious: Do you ever hide your true self? What’s your secret to lasting friendship?

**Top photo by Grace Robertson. Bottom photo by Steve Rosenfield.

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6 thoughts on “The Fear of Friendship

  1. Paul says:

    Wow! This one sucked the wind out of me…in a good way. With the right people, I believe vulnerability is where true love is found.

  2. First, I don’t like you – I ADORE you. For whatever that’s worth to ya ;) I think we all hide a bit of ourselves most of the time. It’s natural to do. I definitely do. I think all out all the time would be so exhausting for both sides – to put out there and to accept and deal with. I don’t know why it’s such a risk to be completely vulnerable; why do we care so much what other people think? we just do. As I get older, I do care less since I become more confident in who I am and want to be. I know I am genuine, love life and people and tend to make people laugh most of the time, so if someone doesn’t like that, then wow. Moving on. I’ve noticed since I’ve had my son, I’ve started to care even less of what people think of ME. But now my worries have morphed into the day when Stuart will have to deal with the “mean kids” at school – cause there are always a few – and if they will “like” him or not. I know there is nothing I can do to prevent how others treat him. Kids can be so cruel now and with social media giving easy outlets to bullying with no consequences…oh, so scary. So, completely vulnerability…only with those I totally trust…which is a small select few. I do wish we would all live like we are 80 and don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks. I think they are beautiful.

  3. Great post! I want to be real and have friends that share my life journey that are unmasked. We all have our fears, but I’m not sure we are conscience of what fear is motivating us. I think you are awesome – you remind me of your adorable aunt! :) (Keep writing!)

  4. Kimberly Thrasher says:

    I really LIKE you and have since I first met you. You have such a sweet spirit that drew me to you. Love to see you living life!

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