All of us, I think, want to be known.
It’s the reason business is booming for counselors and therapists. It’s the reason we dream: To help us see and know ourselves. It’s the reason we love others: To see and known them as they are.
Some of us (me) are “over-sharers”; we make people uncomfortable because we share more about ourselves than folks are used to or consider appropriate. Appropriate sharing…what a funny thing to be scandalized about! Someone shares to be known and we reward them by shunning them. It’s no wonder we have folks on the other end of the spectrum! These “repressors” hide behind their persona, though cracks eventually show. Instead of sharing their shadow they repress it, which only makes the shadow stronger.
My great fear as an “over-sharer” is that in exorcising my shadow my family will be hurt. Not by me directly, of course; that’s the realm of the “repressors”. Like the geological pressures at work in the earth, the pressure of the “repressor’s” shadow trying to get into the light leads to magnificent and terrible explosions. No, for “over-sharers” like me the hurt to my family comes from others through teasing, shunning, and so forth. My family is told to feel shame for my behavior.
As an “over-sharer” I judge “repressors” because of the physical and emotional danger they represent to folks around them. To me it seems irresponsible to bottle up the shadow behind the façade of the persona. I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, to find myself judged in turn by the “repressors” for sharing too much, for making private matters public, etc.
In a perfect world there would be no shadows; we would all be fully integrated persons.
In a slightly less perfect world perhaps people could share their shadow without fear of reprisal. In this not-quite-perfect world everyone would acknowledge their shadows and would not feel fear when others’ sharing threatened their own repression. Instead of shunning each other for sharing we would accept each other as human. Instead of throwing both literal and metaphorical stones at others for confessing their sins in public, people would recognize the humanity in others.
I believe this is one of the reasons Jesus Christ bothered to have a ministry on earth. If Jesus’ mission was only to redeem mankind through His own crucifixion He could have done that without three years of itinerant preaching, thus I believe His ministry was important. In His ministry Jesus spent a lot of time trying to convince “over-sharers” (prostitutes, tax collectors, and “sinners”) they were worthy of love and acceptance; the love and acceptance they weren’t receiving from the “repressors”. To these “repressors” (scribes and Pharisees) Jesus directed harsh words intended to break down the walls of their personas and cast light on their shadows. Put another way, it’s possible Jesus was trying to convince the “over-sharers” (who accepted their humanity) that they were worthy of the love of God, while at the same time trying to convince the “repressors” (who believed they were loved by God) that it is precisely because of their humanity, not in spite of it, that God loved them.
James 5:16 says to, “…confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (ESV) This verse is one of the reasons I write this blog. I’m seeking healing and wholeness by confessing my sins to others, including the unintentionally-admitted sins which are obvious to everyone but me. I believe one of our greatest goals as persons is to know ourselves and be known by others so that we may be healed. I believe that while this process looks remarkably different from person to person, from a cosmic view all our processes look remarkably the same.
Where are you in your process of healing and wholeness? Which method of personhood do you favor most often? We all act the “over-sharer” and “repressor” at times. There is no one who does not occasionally repress some part of themselves, and there is no one who does not occasionally over-share. I pray that God would give each of us wisdom to follow our own paths, and to help us give others grace when they stumble. None of us is dong this perfectly; there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to being human.