I was talking to one of my best friends a year-ish ago about a mutual friend who had stepped way over the line with his words. I needed advice about how to deal with some resentment I had toward this person. We both trusted this person, and we were all pretty close at one point. I figured that if I were to seek counsel from anyone, it should be him.
After explaining everything that had happened leading up to the verbal and psychological abuse and humiliation I’d experienced, we ended up being on the same page in a lot of ways. But things took a turn I didn’t expect. My friend asked if I’d talked to this abuser about what had happened. I hadn’t.
Would you? If you’d been veritably betrayed by someone close, how long would it take for you to let them in again, if ever?
Since I was in elementary school, I’ve been somewhat difficult to get to know. I learned to put up walls early because I learned the harshness of people early. To not put up walls meant to risk great harm to me, physical or psychological. Makes sense, right? And I only built them higher with time (and even higher when I’d been hurt by our mutual friend).
The friend I was consulting knew this. He’s been one of the greatest instruments of bringing my walls down. Naturally, he knows when they’re up, even when I forget they’re there—or more accurately, pretend they aren’t.
“Sure, this is what my face normally looks like! Wait, you’re saying normal people aren’t covered in bricks and mortar?”
I forget exactly what made the conversation take the turn it did, but something he said stuck with me:
“I think maybe you take pride in being hard to get to know.”
I had never thought about that before. And of course, as soon as anyone mentions pride, I have a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction. This time, though, I took it to heart. You know what? He was spot on.
After a long enough time, you become good at it. You learn a lot when you lock yourself away from others. Introspection can be a powerful thing and sometimes only happens under low light, but for people like me, it’s usually at the cost of being around people who can keep you in check. Pride usually comes with the territory of being skilled at anything, even hiding your heart, ironically.
For me, the added irony is that I’m extremely extroverted, meaning that in learning to shut people out for such a long time, I’ve been living in such a way that my true personality isn’t allowed to function. I’m not letting myself be who God made me to be. The younger you lose yourself, it seems the harder it is to find yourself. So, it’s still taking time for me to show who I really am.
A while back, I asked my Facebook friends what their walls are made of. I mean, they must be made of something, right? Here’s what they said:
“Resentment and lack of trust.”
“Pride. Or just downright… ‘benchy’-ness haha.”
“Fear of embarrassment and ridicule from people. Don’t want to let people in case they laugh at or just be weirded out at who I am.”
“The walls I normally put up are things that make me not trust people, such as the bullying against me my entire life, or one of the biggest things was the sexual assault against me when I was a child. My walls made me believe that I had to do everything for myself and that I can’t trust anyone.”
So much pain is wrapped up in these stories of walls built high. It’s like the line from “Run Wild” by for King & Country: “Are the walls to lock you in or to keep others away?” That really captures it, doesn’t it? No one really wants to feel trapped, but no one wants to be vulnerable either. Vulnerability means people can hurt you, but it also means that you can mend things. The same walls you think are there to protect you are the ones keeping you from sharing life with anyone.
Walls keep you from engaging with anything good.
Walls cut you off from anything needed both to keep you alive and to help you thrive.
Ever heard of a feedback loop? You’ve probably heard of feedback. Like when you point a microphone at a speaker and it shrieks like a Nazgul (if you didn’t get that reference, you need to read/watch The Lord of the Rings). It’s called a feedback loop because what goes in the mic comes out the speaker, then the sound is “fed” back into the mic and back out the speaker again and again, so imperceptibly fast that it “self-oscillates” (sound-guy talk for produces its own sound wave, and it’s usually obnoxious).
Imagine what happens when you cut yourself off from the world and that’s what happens to your mind and your heart. It can seem like you’re losing your mind. You can get lost in the noise. You can lose yourself in a sea of your own thoughts and emotions.
(I know that the last two paragraphs had nothing to do with actual walls.)
No amount of safety is worth sacrificing the vitality that comes from the love of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of those He has reconciled.
Maybe that seems backwards because we fear what we will lose outside of those walls—like somehow we could ever be separated from His love. But not even our walls can do that, not when He is fully able to break them down.
For you whose walls are made of resentment: they are shaky walls, and only those who reside in them will be hurt when they collapse. Let Jesus show you what it’s like outside.
For you whose walls are made of mistrust: no amount of isolation will ever be able to prove you wrong, just like no fallen human being will ever be able to love you like Christ, and a lot of people aren’t even capable of love. Let Jesus show you what it’s like outside.
For you whose walls are made of regret: don’t sabotage yourself by trapping yourself in a headspace where you can no longer move forward with your life, because the opposite of progress is atrophy. Let Jesus show you what it’s like outside.
For you whose walls are made of insecurity: Jesus made you so beautiful that it’s beyond human comprehension, but you can’t see such beauty locked away from the light of the sun. Let Jesus show you what it’s like outside.
For you whose walls are self-reliance: you can only carry yourself so far, and that’s okay because we were never meant to be God. Let Jesus show you what it’s like outside.
For you whose walls are fear: only love can cast it out. Let Jesus show you what it’s like outside.
You are dearly loved.
Don’t you dare forget it.
And don’t you dare hide it.
You’re worth more than the walls you built.