Let's Get Real About How We Treat Each Other

If that title caught your attention, you're in the right place. And I'm glad you're here.

I had a plan for this blog post. I was going to be really open and vulnerable with you -- all of you -- so that maybe you'd know how okay it is to be vulnerable, too. Then something happened: I started to chicken out. I started worrying about who could stumble upon this post -- what if I didn't want them to know some of this? What if I didn't want them to see my brokenness? 

Um, hello, earth to Michaela: the whole point of vulnerability is to connect with people and allow them to be vulnerable, too -- to give them the freedom to be without fear of rejection. Who am I to decide who is and is not deserving of that freedom? Instead, I'm going to pretend for a moment that you and I are sitting in a coffee shop having a conversation, just the two of us. Hi, nice to meet you, my name is Michaela. 

Have you ever heard someone say they have a "complicated history" with someone else? You know, a certain name comes up in conversation and they'll say, "oh yeah, we have a kind of long history -- it's complicated."

Well, I myself have a complicated history. I don't mean with anyone in particular (that's for another day), I just have a complicated story all my own. 

To sum it up: I was the overachieving people-pleaser who, for 20 years, found her identity in being the "good girl." I pushed myself to be the perfect daughter, the best girlfriend, an excellent student, and a first-class friend. I didn't realize it along the way, but all of that pressure (combined with my general must-fix-everything demeanor) was destroying me from the inside out. It wasn't until last year that I finally came to terms with the fact that who I am and who I want to be do not have to be the same person -- that who I am right now is enough.

Think about this for a moment: what if someone saw the Google Search history from your entire life? You might be thinking, "oh, that's not that bad, there's nothing embarrassing in my search history," but I want you to really think back here. If you're like me, you've probably asked Google about some weird bodily function or, in your early years, looked up the meaning of pretty sexually explicit words you heard in class. 

If you're not like me, then I guess I'm the only one embarrassed here, but I'm counting on the fact that someone reading this has a pretty humiliating search history, too. How awful would it be if someone saw that entire search history? I'm low-key convinced that I could never talk to that person again. 

Why is that?

Is that just human nature? Is it normal to assume that we'll be judged for the weird things we ask Google? I guess so.

But what about the other things we're ashamed of? Should we just preemptively hide those things from people because we know they'll judge us? 

I don't like that. I'm not okay with it. And I'll tell you why.

Hiding things from people gets me into trouble -- consistently. I have a tendency to hide the truth about how I feel from the people I love in an effort to protect them, to keep the peace, or to maintain harmony in all of our lives. If I'm upset with you, you won't know it. If I've ever been upset with you, you probably don't know it. If my happiness rests on you stopping a certain behavior, I definitely won't let you know. Even if something you said made me go home and call my mom and cry my eyes out, I'd never tell you. Basically if it's between my happiness or yours, I'm always going to pick yours. 

But I've realized in the last 3-ish months that I do everyone a disservice by hiding my true thoughts and feelings. I've finally gotten on board with complete openness and honesty -- even when it causes some momentary discomfort or uneasiness. So I'm not at all okay with living in a world where I have to hide certain pieces of myself in order to remain loved or free from judgment.

So here's my question: why aren't we better at loving people?

There's so much widespread hatred and insecurity right now -- I can feel it festering even from my tiny corner of the world. And since I can't physically open someone's mind to see another point of view, I decided to counsel those who will listen on something we can do to offset the hate: love. 

But here's the truth: everyone knows that. Here's some more truth: it's not enough, because too many people love conditionally. They preach a message of love, and they love others pretty well -- until it gets uncomfortable. They love people until it stops feeling good or until the crowd stops watching. They don't love people through their mess, through their brokenness, through their ugly. They don't give that fierce, relentless love that everyone deserves -- the kind of love that moves you.

I've seen firsthand the impact of a relentless love. I've seen the way it changes people, the way it fills in places they've been broken and rattles their soul so much that they want to go out and love others in the same way. Humans are complex; there's no cut-and-dry formula to help you figure them out. Loving people isn't supposed to be easy (and sometimes it can be really freaking hard), but it is always worth it. Hence what makes it so beautiful and so worth fighting for.

Think about what you're doing! You are literally peering into someone's scariest places, recognizing their flaws, looking in their eyes and saying, "I'm choosing you in spite of -- no, because of -- your mess. Because I have a mess, too. Because I am a human, too. And maybe your mess and my mess can combine to be one big mess that we commit to tackling together, as cohabiters of this life." 

So freaking love people. Just do it! Love them fiercely. Love them until they love themselves. Love them until they have so much love in their hearts that they have to go give some away. Because once you do that, you've started a chain reaction that could quite literally change the world.