Robert Fulghum, in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, wrote about sitting in his office and listening to the neighborhood kids playing hide-and-seek. Fulghum noticed a kid under a pile of leaves in the yard just under his window. He had been there a long time, everybody else had been found, and they were about to give up on him. Fulghum thought about setting the leaves on fire to drive him out. But, instead, he just yelled out the window, “GET FOUND, KID!” He scared him so bad he wet his pants, started crying, and ran home to tell his mother. Fulghum wrote, “It’s hard to know how to be helpful sometimes.”
Fulghum then told of a doctor who discovered he had terminal cancer. He knew he was dying, and he didn’t want to make his family and friends suffer through that with him. So, he kept his secret and eventually died. Everybody said how brave he was to bear his suffering in silence and not tell anyone, but his family and friends did not feel that way. They were angry that he didn’t feel as if he needed them and didn’t trust their strength. It hurt them that he didn’t say good-bye. Fulghum explained that this man hid too well.
We have become a society that hides too well. We play an adult version of hide-and-seek. And when we don’t get found, we get mad.
Who hides? The man who knows he needs to change his priorities, whose every act is calculated to advance his career but who is so addicted to it that he refuses to see the truth or to allow others to see it. He knows he needs to change. But he is unwilling to take the steps—he’s hiding. The woman who is filled with anger at her mother or her husband or her children because she has to work a job she does not like or live in a place she does not care for. She will not talk about the real problem with anyone, but her anger just leaks out of her and corrodes her relationships and her heart—she’s hiding. The couple whose demeanor is friendly and respectable but whose marriage is dead. They are wealthy by the world’s standards, but there is a poverty of love in their hearts. Their situation could be corrected if they would seek counseling. But instead they remain in hiding. The parents whose child is on drugs. But they won’t tell anyone for fear it would destroy their reputation. Unable to share their wounds and their pain, they go into hiding.
Why do we hide? We hide for protection. Like an animal’s fur coat that camouflages it from predators, we camouflage our scars from our watching world. Our camouflage consists of busyness—if we can stay busy maybe no one will notice our hurts. Or, we use humor—a sarcastic remark here or a joke there will cover up our pain. Or, we use our affluence—one of the many benefits of wealth is its ability to conceal our wounds.
Here’s the paradox: We want to reveal ourselves yet protect ourselves. We vacillate between the impulse of going public with our feelings and desires and the impulse of covering ourselves with a blanket of privacy.
We hide because we admire the rugged individualist, like James Bond, who is tough, self-reliant, emotionally inexpressive, detached from personal involvement. While some admire these qualities, we would do well to remember that admiration does not necessarily lead to community.
We hide for fear of rejection. We long to reveal ourselves but fear rejection. To take the step of self-disclosure and then to have a friend walk away can be devastating. We build elaborate facades because we are convinced that if people ever saw us as we see ourselves, the sight would repel them.
How can we be found?
When we admit our weaknesses. What if we took off our masks and admitted our struggles?
When we allow people to see what is in our hearts. With discretion, what if we allowed others a glimpse into our hearts? We often think that if we open our hearts to others it will repel them when actually self-disclosure has the opposite effect. When we take off our masks people are actually drawn to us.
When we confess our mistakes. Confession is good for the soul. When will we learn that it is by coming clean that we live whole and healed?
If you are hiding, I offer this admonition: “Come out; come out, wherever you are.” The game is over.
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