Brave Enough to be Seen

This article was originally published on The Road to Brave.

“It had flaws, but what does that matter…? Anyone can love a thing because.
That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite.
To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.”

Patrick Rothfuss

Am I worth being loved? 

Over the years, it’s been remarkable how many people I’ve met who are asking this same question. Often it’s not even a conscious question or clear thought. But that sometimes-subtle fear of being found wanting — found to be not enough, found to be unworthy of love — often drives many of our actions and thoughts and decisions. 

It seems like a young-person thing — a natural by-product of the wrestling that happens as we come of age and figure out who we are and where our place in the world is. But it turns out that’s not the case, either. To want to be loved is to be human. It’s almost like we were created for it…

And we are human whether we are eight or eighteen or fourty-eight or eighty. 

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Author James K. A. Smith posits that the most fundamental human function is not to think, but to love. Our Creator God does not merely think of us. God loves us. 

So why do we find ourselves asking, Am I worth being loved? Of course we are. We are made in God’s image. He Himself has declared us worthy of His own love — to the point of giving His own life for us. But the human heart knows its own sickness, its own struggle, its own sin. We know intimately all those places where we come up short, where we are found wanting, even if those around us don’t see it. Maybe this is one reason that it is often a struggle to believe that yes, I am worth being loved. 

True, it’s a struggle worth the struggle. As men and women created in the image of this loving God, we get the privilege of loving those around us and of being loved. But here’s the thing: we were created to be truly and perfectly loved. And one cannot be truly and perfectly loved without being truly and perfectly seen. 

Perhaps the fact that we were created for this, and long for it, is also why this very thing is so under attack in our world. We live in a generation of shallow, disconnected people. A world of carefully curated images and projected personality. A world where it’s safer to ghost than to open up, where family is no longer a safe haven, where our virtual lives are so disconnected from our real ones that it’s sometimes just simpler to hide there. A world where our identities are so interwoven with our performances that to be seen failing is to be seen as a failure. We fear being seen truly and found wanting. We fear being known truly and found unworthy of love. 

And so we determine that it’s much safer to just not let other see into those cracks and crevices of our innermost life. Of course it’s much safer to hide our failures and our mistakes. Of course it’s much safer to pretend like all’s well with the world and we’re fine and it’s fine and everything’s fine. 

But one cannot be truly and perfectly loved without being truly and perfectly seen. Yes, sometimes the bravest thing we can do is to go unnoticed. But other times, the most courageous act we can take is to step into the light, choose to believe ourselves worthy of love, and let ourselves be truly seen. How do I know? : ) 

Don’t Forget to Let Us In
“Deep inside, I’m excited,” I said quietly, twisting my fingers in my lap like I often did in counseling appointments. “I really want this relationship to work out, and I think it will. But I’m afraid to seem excited about it, or tell anyone that, because if it doesn’t, then for starters, I’ll be embarrassed. But more importantly, if this doesn’t work out, then I’ve already opened the door to how I feel, and they’ll see my sadness. And I don’t really want them to see that. It feels way safer to be the only one who can see the most vulnerable things in my heart.” 

For years I kept a note from a dear friend, one that said, We’re here for you. Don’t forget to let us in. It wasn’t that I didn’t want support (I’d have told you I did). It wasn’t that I didn’t want the kind of friends who hold you close no matter what (I’d have told you I did). It was just that I’d gone so long without being willing to open up, simply because it felt safer, that it was now really difficult for me to take the gates off my heart and start letting other people see inside. And so by my actions, I proved that I cared more about this false feeling of sham-safety than I did about having deep relationships. 


Now, there’s a caveat here that’s just assumed — in order to open up, you do have to have a safe place and safe people. We don’t have to throw open the door to every corner of our hearts and lives to any random group — that’s called discernment and it’s a mark of wise leadership. Even if you maintain an overall attitude of openness and honesty, you should be careful about what you share with whom. But when you have a safe place and safe people, don’t let fear keep you from being real. 

It’s been a journey to start actively pushing against my long-held pattern that “kept inside = safe”. It’s taken work to open up and realize that, in fact, I am better for it. And wonder of wonders, my people are still there, and I am still loved.

I cannot be truly and fully loved by my safe people if I am not willing to let them see all of me — the brave, the ugly, the sweet, the sad, the beautiful, and the painful. 

It is a brave thing to choose to let others in. 

Being truly seen should lead to growth
Once we start leaning into the idea that it is a good thing to be “real”, to be genuine, to be honest, to share our successes and our failures, it can be easy to swing to the opposite extreme and run over others with our words and actions. We equate being true to the way God made us with being set in the way that we are, reacting according to our natural personalities, and communicating according to our natural patterns. For me, that’s often being a people-pleaser, bending over myself to keep everyone at peace all the time. 

But when we’re truly seen and yet loved, it should lead to growth. Being real about success and failure should allow others to speak into our lives. Being real about our tendencies and personality and patterns should allow us to also be real about the places where we need some work. Being loved should free us to learn how to love others better, which includes loving them in a way they understand to the best of the abilities God has given us. If others are a safe place for us, we want to be a safe place for them, too. Being truly seen and loved means we are no longer concealing those things we think make us unlovable. And that should lead to ongoing growth.

Let God see you
Meaning, realize that God sees you and realize you can be real with God. : ) Realize that every single thing you think makes you unworthy of love has already been seen by Him, and He declared you worthy of love nonetheless. It is okay to be real with Him about how we’re feeling. It’s okay to talk to Him about our struggles. It’s okay to be honest with Him about our doubts and difficulties. He already saw you, already chose to love you. So why don’t we quit worrying about our “performance” before God and start committing our daily path to Him? Start communicating with Him about all the bumps and twists and turns on that daily path? Start asking Him into every corner of our lives — including the ones we’d rather hide away in the dark — and ask Him to bring His light there? 

“It had flaws, but what does that matter…? Anyone can love a thing because.
That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite.
To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.” (PR) 

Am I worth being loved? 

The truth is yes. You’ve already been fully seen and you are fully loved. And because of that, it is a courageous thing indeed to choose to let ourselves be seen by our people, to choose to see them, and to pour out the love we’ve already been given. 

This week, may we be brave enough to be seen.