I was nine when I wore my first pair of glasses. Poor eyesight runs in my family, but the thing is, I had myself convinced for years that I did not need glasses at age nine.
It happened like this: I was a skinny, shy nine year old, somehow left alone in a dark room with a fat optometrist and a dimly lit letter-board. It was a recipe for a myriad of things, not the least of which was for all my fears to rouse their heads.
He stood directly in front of me and asked me, “Can you see this? How about this? How about with this eye? This eye?”
I answered him as surely as I could, but the truth was that his fat backside was in the way and if I couldn’t see, it wasn’t because I couldn’t see, but because I was unable to see around that hulking white-coated posterior.
He wrote my prescription and I picked out frames, ugly pink plastic things, but this was 1989 and ugly, pink plastic things were the thing. I hated those glasses and would lose them frequently, particularly when I needed to practice the piano or do homework.
I could not have known it at that point in life, but it stands earmarked as the first moment that knot in my stomach kept me from telling the truth, to spare the feelings or the possible disappointment of someone.
It’s strangulating, this fear. It keeps me sullen and fearful, it eats away at my friendships, it makes unhappy situations last a seeming eternity. There’s no way to wrap it up properly as selflessness or humility, as I often try to do. People have accused me of being a floor-mat or codependent, but however they have described it, it doesn’t fix the real problem, which is that I cannot tell you the truth.
But the reason is more surprising than I like to admit, and it’s because I cannot tell myself the truth.
The truth is that I am not acting in humility or in the best interest of someone (or myself, or God) by shutting down and shutting out when I’m confronted. It is not good when the preferences of someone else go voiced and mine sequester in. The truth is that it is not for anyone’s good when they are able to bandy their requests about, demanding that I acquiesce to their demands, while I keep silent about…well…anything.
I say it’s because I’m easy-going like that.
But that’s fear too.
The truth is that inside I’m broiling over with the fear that I’ll never be with someone with whom I can be honest. And that fear turns into angst so quickly and frustration, when it gives way, turns into an ugly green-eyed monster who is a master of manipulation.
Poor eyesight runs in my family and so does fear and manipulation and anger and self-righteousness and I suspect it runs in your family too, if we are born of the same Adam. But glasses help turn what is blurry and blocked into what is seen and illuminated. And fear is illuminated by covenantal relationships.
I don’t know of another fix for fear but perfect love and I think that’s a lifetime search—especially if the people around you are less interested in loving well.
But I know this: Perfect Love says what it believes and it says it so strongly that it stretched out, bleeding and bloodied, and died—even in the face of fear. So I want to let that change how I’m confronted and how I confront, how I tell the truth and how I keep silent, and how I practice humility and not self-righteousness.