If you are an American, it is likely that you are preparing to see family and friends for one thankful meal and a month’s worth of leftovers this week. This tradition is heart-warming for many, but terrifying for countless others. ‘Why would anyone be terrified,’ you ask? Well, for the same reason people lie on a daily basis: fear of rejection and conflict.
Imagine meeting someone for the first time. Naturally, you’re going to try to make a good impression to avoid conflict right out of the gate. There are polite questions to ask, polite answers to provide, and no one really knows what is going on in your heart. Why would they? You just met, for crying out loud! *Note: As a devout introvert, I tend to naturally dive in with deep questions in an attempt to understand who I’m speaking with as a whole. There are definitely exceptions to the rule, but humor me for a few more minutes.
There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward when meeting someone for the first time. There is also nothing wrong with continuing to pursue a positive impression on those around you. The issue arises, dear friends, when you find yourself sitting down to eat with family and friends who simply do not know you. They know what you continue to share with them, the good face you put on, but you would never dare to tell them who you are when they aren’t around.
Are you one of the culprits? If so, I encourage you to leave your rehearsed stories at home and to wholly attend your family’s gathering this year.
“But, my parents didn’t raise me to vote republican/democrat/independent, question my faith, live with my boyfriend, etc. They will freak out if they know I don’t agree with their views. It’s just easier this way.”
Sure, maybe omission or lying makes the meal a little easier to get through, but you’re consciously hiding yourself from people who want to love you. Bringing your real self to the table means trusting your friends and family to accept who you really are instead of the façade you’ve presented for far too long.
If you identify with this story, you’ve probably been hiding parts of yourself from loved ones for years. Suddenly coming clean and telling everyone what you’ve been hiding is unnecessary and, let’s be honest, grandma’s heart probably can’t take it. However, this is your year to initiate transparency. If a topic arises and it’s something you’ve been hiding, take this opportunity to tell the truth. Say it delicately, without defensiveness, and be sure to validate the opinions of others at the table. Be prepared to see things from an opposite standpoint and to discuss the differences in a healthy way. Treat others the way you want to be treated in this situation. It may spur a conflicting reaction, but if you remain calm, open, and understanding, most people will calm down and discuss instead of fight.
Trust your family and friends to love you. If you don’t let them know the real you, you’re blocking the deep love and acceptance you crave from them. You’ll also miss out on the power of diversity, which leads to growth and understanding.
Do your parents openly condemn homosexuality in your home, but you’ve secretly known you’re attracted to the same sex since you were young? Maybe finding out that they love and raised someone with same-sex attraction will open their hearts to love and understand others in the LGBT community.
Are you deeply questioning your beliefs right now? Perhaps learning that you are exploring aspects of your faith will allow them the same freedom to ask questions and understand religion on a deeper level. Your honesty may be eye opening for your own parents, who were likely raised to put on a good face at all costs.
I may not know your entire story, uptight family, or judgmental friends (maybe look for new friends if that’s the case), but I know that people want to love and accept others. It’s in our spirit to connect and support one another. Use your experience and wisdom to gauge what you’re ready to share and what isn’t ready to be revealed quite yet, but remember that in order to give love fully, you must also know how to receive it fully.