One of the real joys of working with little kids is their complete and ridiculous honesty (and even when they start learning to lie, they’re usually pretty bad at it for at least a few years). They are who they are, wherever they are, regardless of who else happens to be around. If they are tired, jubilant, scared, hungry, nervous, or, as my nephew recently proclaimed himself, “feeling too wild”, you know it. Because when we start life off, we are pretty much whole. We are unified. All the parts of our lives are integrated.
But the older we get, the harder it gets. We recognize that we have roles in life and our sense of self changes based on our counterparts or audience. Few people know this more acutely than teenagers – the way we speak, dress, behave and even think can be wildly different when we’re with our friends, in front of teachers, with our parents, at church, at school, etc. We conform to the roles others expect us to fulfill – for good or for ill. If we’re the funny one, we’ll make jokes. If we’re the smart one, we’ll study hard. If we’re the problem kid, we’ll get into trouble. Kids are pigeon-holed from an early age and are tremendously aware of the expectations (spoken and implied) placed on them.
The real trouble here is that, for a whole lot of people, we get the idea that the people we love will only love the version of us that they’ve come to know. That’s more than a bit of a problem if we’re one person with them, and someone else entirely in other parts of our lives. Everybody’s got some secrets, but the more varied our personas and roles get, the harder it can be to ever feel whole or intact. Who doesn’t know an adult with a “business voice / face / demeanor” who changes 180 degrees around when they get home for the day? Maybe that’s just the reality of adults doing what we have to do to survive. Or maybe it’s demonstrative of our inability to trust that anybody would - -if they really knew the truest, most integrated “us” completely – love us just as we are.
Since God created us each as integrated and whole, maybe living into that a bit more in our daily lives will bring us closer to daily remembrance of that truth – somebody does love you, all of you, exactly as you are.