We all have voices that tell us we are never enough. If we measure up in school, we don’t in sports or attractiveness or anything else. We always have voices, around us and in us, that assure us we are, indeed, substandard—or average, which feels just as bad.
Hiding, insecurity, not comfortable in our own skin, failure, feeling worthless or at least worth less than others, fears of rejection, past regrets that we’d prefer weren’t known—all these are features of everyday life. Left to themselves, they grow into shame and self-loathing.
Too often we want to hide, or at least hide some part of ourselves.
We hide because we are not . . . enough.
Hiding, of course, comes with its own problems.
Hiding reduces our close relationships to mere acquaintances. We put on a face, so we are never fully known. The result? We become more and more isolated. Relationships can’t thrive with such privacy. As if this weren’t bad enough, our human relationships reveal details of our relationship with God. If you hide before other people, you will hide before God. If you are not open with God, you are not open with other people. The two go hand-in-hand. But life goes on, and, somehow, you wake up tomorrow and keep going. Human beings are resilient, at least for a while.
God’s words in Scripture can seem worlds apart from these everyday struggles. We know what God says about murder, lying, and unfaithfulness. Our fragile inner worlds, however, are a different matter. We know that God speaks to our spiritual lives, which we think of as prayer and Bible reading. But we wonder if we need something else to speak to the hidden parts of our lives—the fears, shame, regret, and failures.
Let’s try a different course: God created us to be open and honest with him and with each other. If you have ever had that kind of relationship, you know this to be true. If you have never had that kind of relationship, you want it. God speaks in detail, with gentleness and wisdom, about these critical matters of life, and what he says is very good. With this in mind, we listen and search until hope sneaks in—and our need to hide begins to fade.
Addressing our insecurities and failures.
We begin with insecurity—that underlying feeling that we are not quite adequate. Here is a wide entry to Scripture. We are all familiar with it, and we are all invited to listen. Our insecurities are also a less jarring start than struggles such as feeling worthless and humiliation, which will come later, and insecurities seem to be less tied to our identities.
Then we will consider failure, which is harder to face. We can feel insecure without having a long list of significant failures. Failure confirms our suspicions; we really are losers.
It too can be found most anywhere. I know a sixty year-old woman who loves people well. She listens and asks good questions. Her conversations quickly move to important matters. Recently another woman simply asked, “Could you tell me your story?”
The tables had turned. She was accustomed to asking rather than revealing. Now the conversation was about her. In response, her mind reeled. Life with an alcoholic father, never being enough, a résumé with no worldly accomplishments—a loser through and through. Her life flashed before her, and all she saw was failure. When failures accumulate, they do become an identity.
Who would have known that right under the surface of her competent care for others was an abiding sense of failure? And she represents many of us.
And then comes shame.
After failure comes shame. That is how the struggles of life can descend. Shame is the most difficult, most life-dominating, and most hidden. Perhaps you did something really bad, and it became public. Any addiction could do it. More often shame is not so much a result of what you have done but of what was done to you. When you are treated as nothing, you feel like nothing. When you are treated disgracefully, you believe you are a disgrace. Either way, done by you or done to you, you hope to disappear or die, which are extreme versions of hiding.
The path ahead for us does not end with hiding. Instead, God aims to replace it with a settled confidence. No need to defend yourself. Rest—like a secure child. Loved—and you are sure of it. Life will still have its trouble but without the layers of complexity that can overwhelm our inner world. All this does not come easily, especially given how shame can leave you almost deaf to anything good. But God’s words are quite powerful. They are food that strengthen your soul.
Stop hiding and start talking.
“God . . . knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21).
If you have ever prayed silently, you believe this. He hears you and knows what is in your heart, which is where you fret, hide, love, hate, desire, and feel. When someone knows what is in your heart, and that person loves you all the more rather than turns away from you, you are more inclined to stop hiding and start talking.
Have you ever had a relationship in which you were free to be open and honest? This is your real desire. Too often, this happens only in rehab centers and counselors’ offices. Have you ever been open and honest with God? This is God’s desire. Is that hard for you to believe? Can you imagine why it is true?
Who can you ask to walk with you and talk with you on your journey?
Excerpt adapted from A Small Book about Why We Hide: How Jesus Rescues Us from Insecurity, Regret, Failure, and Shame ©2021 by Edward T. Welch. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.