What does that word really mean?
Merriam Webster's defines "real" as being "not artificial, fraudulent, or illusory", but that doesn't really help us much. We live in a society where so much of what we do is fake. We pretend that we're being "real" and "open" and "honest" and fifty billion other buzzwords, but we're really still hiding behind the mask of perfection. We try and hide our imperfections- but this just makes us less and less real. Eventually, we begin to forget who we really are.
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"The Velveteen Rabbit is one of my absolute favorite books, and this passage is one of my favorite parts. Real isn't about "pretty". It isn't about "smart". It isn't about being all put together in a nice little box with a pretty pink bow on top. Real is about what's on the inside, more than what we put forth on the outside. It's easy to fake the outside. We can go on with life pretending that everything is prefect- but that's not really "real". It's not free. Part of finding free is letting go of the false ideas of perfection. Chances are, you will never be completely perfect. You'll always be able to find some flaw, some imperfection if you try hard enough. Being "real" means recognizing your strengths, accepting your imperfections, and knowing that all people (even you!) have equal value.
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.
Those pictures in the magazines? They aren't real. In reality, most of them are Photoshopped. Even if they aren't edited, they still aren't "real". Models are posed, placed in special clothing, made up in a certain way- all to accentuate the positive and hide the "negative". I think we can even take this same concept into the world of social media. Your friend that looks like she has the "perfect life", that looks like she's got it all together? She might be falling apart. We tend to post the good things in our lives, and leave it at that. We don't want to tell everyone about our "messy things". Rather than sharing that we're struggling, we want to look "put together". You can't judge a book by it's cover, and you can't really judge a person by their Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Mommy bloggers? They might look like they have the perfect life. They might just show you their super cute kids and all the fun arts and crafts they do and all of the fun veggies that they eat. But in reality? Their two year old probably screams just as much as yours. She's probably just as frazzled.
So, let's give fake a break. Let's stop hiding behind all of our masks and start trying to figure out who we really are again.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt
Even if we fail, even if we fall- at least we fell while daring greatly (thanks Brene Brown for that one- if you haven't read Daring Greatly- I'm going to highly recommend that one). Vulnerability takes courage. It is hard stuff to be open and honest and share our downs along with our ups. But, I have to believe that by being "real", we are showing the world the grace and power of Jesus. I have to believe that God can use our bad times, along with our good. I have to believe that God can turn the "tattered fabric of my life into a perfect tapestry".
You're turning the tattered fabric of my life into
A perfect tapestry
I just wanna be me
But you see the real me
Hiding in my skin, broken from within
Unveil me completely
I'm loosening my grasp
There's no need to mask my frailty
Cause you see the real me
And you love me just as I am
Wonderful, beautiful is what you see
When you look at me