The Mad Hatter – “Have I gone mad?”
Alice: “I’m afraid so…. but I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are. ”
– Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
It’s one of the harder lessons I had to learn, how broken most people are. No matter how together they seem, no matter how many positive traits they have, no matter how much they do or give or produce, there is almost always a brokenness somewhere in their lives.
That’s not a put down. In fact quite the opposite. We’re human and imperfection is our lot. Perfection belongs to God alone. We can’t expect to be perfect. And yet, somehow, we do.
Years ago, when I was struggling through a divorce, I was obviously broken. You could look at me and tell how broken I was. People still tell me how haggard and broken (the word they use) I looked.
Yet, a surprising number of people came to me in that period for advice, sharing their own broken lives. At times, these were people who had lived with their brokenness in secret for years, and suddenly they were sharing their own hurt and pains with the most unlikely candidate – me.
This really confused me. “Why?” I asked one friend who particularly poured himself out to me one night. “Why were you silent so long about this? And why share it now?”
“Because I always thought you were perfect.” He said. “And now, I know you are human.”.
What an indictment! And what a lesson. People may make myths out of us and endow us with perfection. Or we may create that image of ourselves in the public arena. But in reality, people respond better to us, and we can often be more credible, helpful and healing in our imperfections!
Here’s something else I have learned about being honest about our broken places – When we admit them, people are incredibly kind and gracious and helpful. When we hide our broken places, they will not be as kind, gracious and helpful.
Not because they are mean, but because they don’t think we NEED their kindness, their grace, or their help. They don’t know. And because they don’t know, we rob ourselves of their loving help, and they are robbed of an opportunity to help. We’re all poorer.
When I began therapy, years and years ago, I went through three years of peeling the onion of my life and emotions. And three years of reading book after book on the various issues that came out. One of the big surprises in the reading was how common my own kinds of brokenness were. I had thought I was far more alone than I was. Knowing how normal brokenness is, made me feel somehow, like I was going to be OK. I was struggling, but I was struggling on a path others had trod, and where others had found their way out.
And if they, in their brokenness, could find their way out to a better place, so could I. It made the mountains smaller, the depression more manageable, the struggles easier.
Today, I think I listen better knowing how broken I am. I manage better knowing my weaknesses and working with them instead of hiding them. I am a better friend. A better father. I think my love is better in it’s imperfection than it ever was when I thought life was less broken. I forgive easier. And that includes forgiving myself.
I am blind in one eye. That means I have no depth perception. Which makes things like hitting nails more than a challenge. For years, I thought I was just bad at it. Then one day, I was working at home and bent the shaft of the hammer I was using.
And suddenly, I could hit nails. That hammer would be useless to most people. But to me, that slightly bent, very battered hammer corrected the problem with my depth perception and I could work.
The broken tool was perfect.
Often, I have learned, a broken person is often perfect for someone else who needs something only another’s particular brokenness can offer. That might be you, or me, or someone yet to enter your life,
So… if you have been hiding from your brokenness, embrace it. Yes, you can work on improving, but understand you are not alone. You have so much to offer. It need not be a roadblock, but a launching point. A connection place. The start of a beautiful, broken, greatness.