When my wounds become gifts to others
Cindy Ling // July 30, 2020, 8:33 pm
We often wish to present the best sides of ourselves. Who enjoys showing others our wounds and scars?
After all, struggles in life are not trophies to be paraded. We prefer to keep our dark areas private because we believe they make us look weak and defective.
For those of us who disciple others, we also hold ourselves to a high standard since discipleship is often associated with teaching biblical principles and modelling them to those under our care.
We are reluctant to be authentic for fear of washing our dirty linen in public.
Yet in my journey of working with youths and young adults, I’ve come to realise: The more perfect I appear, the more impossible the change seems to the person I’m ministering to. On the flip side, the more vulnerable I am, the more hopeful they are about what they can achieve.
When I am truthful about my struggles, I’ve learnt that they can become gifts to both myself and others.
In my own life, I’ve seen how being authentic helps me to accept my weakness as a reality. Instead of feeling small, I accept that it’s a part of me that can be improved.
After acceptance, I can then kickstart the process of facing the problem and adjusting towards progress. This may involve talking to someone about it or getting professional help if needed.
Doing all this gives me a better chance of overcoming it as I move towards freedom with God’s help.
Since having struggles is a ubiquitous experience, I’ve also found that authentic sharing leads to empathy and mutual support – this can be a more effective way of discipleship than we can imagine.
The more perfect I appear, the more impossible the change seems to the person I’m ministering to.
For example, when speaking with someone who is battling with a self-esteem problem, it helps to begin by opening up about my personal struggles.
I’ve admitted how I fear not being liked by others, and how I’ve even felt disappointed when a similar post on social media by someone else received more ‘likes’ than mine. Or how I feel sad when I hear of gatherings that I’m not invited to, or when people received gifts that I didn’t get.
Instead of starting off by talking about how one should know their identity in Christ and recognise their worth, I’ve found that sharing from my own experience helps the person who is listening to identify with these same emotions. Through this, they end up becoming more open to hear about how I’ve coped with these struggles.
When I’m authentic with those whom I’m discipling, I’ve seen a number of things happen.
- Assurance of a shared experience: They no longer feel like they are the only ones who have these struggles. This awareness reduces their sense of insecurity and gives them courage to face their weakness.
- Comfort and encouragement: They draw strength from hearing of my victories amid my struggles. Knowing about both my failures and my wins suggests that they too have the chance to overcome.
- Mutual trust and accountability: They trust that I understand what they are going through, since I’ve been on a similar path before. They are more willing to allow me to keep them accountable, to pace with them as they keep running forward.
- A change in heart, mind and behaviour: They are now open to learning about how I process these struggles, and I can then teach what are helpful thought and emotional patterns for them to model after.
Having said that, I want to include a warning that there are also dangers to being authentic.
When sharing our struggles, we must be prepared that this might affect our reputation. However, for the sake of another, I believe it’s a risk worth taking in hope for the return of a life changed.
I’d also like to leave you with two tips that could help set boundaries and minimise potential repercussions.
Share enough to build empathy, but don’t go into too much specifics. Oversharing may cause discomfort to the hearer and regret to yourself. A general guide is: Share to the point that if this story is repeated to someone else, you will not be uncomfortable.
Get permission from those whom you want to share about
For instance, if I were to share about the quarrels in my marriage, my husband’s permission should be sought. If the person’s comfort level is lower than yours, default to the lowest comfort level. After all, the sharing is meant to assist others, not to cause hurt to anyone.
Struggles in life are not poisons but vaccines that can help us become stronger when we overcome them.
The beauty of being God’s children is that we live in the presence of redemptive love. We need not live in shame when we have weaknesses because God gives us second chances to start anew.
Dirty linen left in a dark corner of our cupboards will always remain dirty. But when they are washed and brought out into the light to be sunned, they become clean and sanitised.
If discipleship is a sanctification process where we become purer in character, perhaps it’s valuable for disciplers to learn to wash our dirty linen in public.
Only then can our wounds be gifts that build us up as well as gifts that can be shared with fellow strugglers, so that together we can be transformed for His glory.
Are you struggling with something that is keeping you from living the life that God has intended for you?
On September 17-18, 2020, Singapore Youth for Christ, in partnership with Kallos, is holding a conference for young ladies called “Not Gonna Lie”. Hear from speakers who have personally struggled with obsessive behaviours but now share authentically about their stories of freedom and victory in Christ. More details are available on their conference page and Instagram page.
Alternatively, if you would like to know more about how to use authenticity to disciple others or seek guidance for specific struggles, you can reach out to the writer via www.heartbulbs.com. Cindy Ling is a youth worker with Singapore Youth for Christ and a life coach who delights in inspiring others towards the best that they can be.
THINK + TALK
1. When were you last honest with yourself about your past failures or fears?
2. What do you think God is saying to you about these failures or fears?
3. What are some reservations you might have about using authenticity to disciple someone?
4. How can you begin to allow your wounds to be gifts to others?