Not the tears-slowly-dripping-down-your-face cry, but the loud, snot-filled cry (or as some call it, the “ugly cry”). It’s the first true “ugly cry” I’ve had in a long time. In fact, I can’t even remember the last “ugly cry” I had before that.
Since the beginning of this year, I have been realizing my struggle with expressing my emotions. It’s not that I don’t have them; it’s just that I don’t like to show them, because showing them is revealing vulnerability. Of course I show happiness, goofiness, silliness, joy, etc., but I try not to give away much more, especially emotions like:
excitement In my mind, if something or someone falls through, people will see me disappointed.
anger I think too much anger shows weakness and I don’t want people to see me as weak.
frustration Then people will know what really grinds my gears, and I don’t like them having that kind of “power” over me.
sadness I think people will only pity me.
loneliness The people who think I think I’m perfect will say, “Well, it turns out even you don’t think your God is enough.”
And so I’ve mastered the art of my Noh face.
Noh faces are theater masks made to hide facial expressions. While you may have never seen a Noh face on a stage, the concept is more familiar to you than you might think. Take a look at this scenario:
Person 1: Hey! How are you today?!
Person 2 [actually feeling horrible]: Hey! I’m good, how are you?!
Classic. You’ve been there, I’ve been there, we’ve all been there. But I’ve gotten really good at it, and realized it’s much to my destruction.
I remember the day I realized I could fool people into thinking one thing when, in reality, I felt the complete opposite. One Christmas, about four or so years ago, I got a gift from my parents I didn’t really care for. They were excited about it (and I was grateful for it), but I didn’t care too much for the actual gift. So to avoid an awkward encounter I just put on my Noh face, despite the fact that I thought my family would see right through me.
Just when I thought I was caught, my brother says, “Wow, you can tell she really likes it! Look at her face!” And right then, in the midst of my surprise, I felt a power I didn’t know I’d had.
I soon discovered I could use this power to protect myself from getting hurt in the future, while innocently fooling others. It was a great plan, and it worked for a long time. What I didn’t foresee was the loneliness, sorrow and depression that came from taking my heart and locking it far, far away from others. Over time, I developed a fear of never being known and of always being broken and alone.
Throughout the years, people have been impressed with my ability to not get angry with others, and I’ve taken pride in it. But it hasn’t helped me too much, because inside, all of my emotions are bottled up.
Earlier this summer I read The Princess Bride. In it, the author describes Princess Buttercup in this way: “Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high.” When I read that, all I could think was I too had done that to myself. It created a feeling of loneliness in me I wouldn’t wish upon anyone else. It made me feel insecure in even my deepest friendships, it made me feel estranged from my family, and it kept me from seeing God as my Abba (my daddy).
When people tried to come near, I built a moat; and when people got over that and tried to scale the walls, I built a roof. I thought it was keeping me from being hurt, but in reality, it secluded me from those who truly care about me. The devil saw this weakness in me and took full advantage of it.
It’s taken a long time, through Christ, to knock down the wall, and He has been the first to enter in. With His help, and with the lesson of sharing my burdens with others, we have been taking down the wall together from the inside.
And can I just say, it is messy.
Its like going through an attic you haven’t gone through in 20 years and trying to make sense of things. But by the grace of Abba, those around me have volunteered to take a brick or two from the wall and add it to their own load. Being on the receiving end of that has been an incredible experience for me, but it’s still not easy. Being vulnerable with others is, in fact, pretty terrifying. But I have to remember the billions of people who have been helped by King David, one of the greatest contributors to the Bible, and one who spared no word for the emotions he was feeling.
By the grace of Abba, my over-protective walls are coming down one day at a time. By the grace of Abba, I am no longer trapped within my own walls, but am moving towards the open arms of Christ and those around me. And while sharing my emotions doesn’t solve the problems I face, it helps take much of the load away and gives me hope for brighter days.
*Photo courtesy: Britney @baretribe.blogspot.com