I loved playing outside as a kid. We often made up our own games but we also played many of the “traditional” games like Red Rover Red Rover, Mother May I, Tag or Hide and Seek (Wow! I am really starting to date myself here!) It’s so sad to see our kids today planted behind video games or television and missing out on some of the great fun that can be had goofing off during these games… but I digress. Playing hide and seek as a kid, there would come a point where someone had been caught and was now “it.” The call would then go out, “Come out! Come out wherever you are!” It was a signal to everyone else that the risk was gone and they were free to come out of hiding because it was safe. I can’t say we always came out of hiding with total confidence because, in our circle of friends, you sometimes weren’t sure if it was really ok to come out or if someone was trying to trick you into coming out so they could pounce on you. It made me think of how we grow up doing the same things with our lives that we did in hide and seek as a child.
Hiding can sometimes be a useful tool. It allows us to self-protect when we are enduring difficult circumstances. We are able to retreat and take time to settle our fears and regain some of our strength but when we begin to hide out of habit, it creates difficulties we cannot even imagine. I have always appeared to be an open book but those few people who have caught glimpses into the hidden pages of my world understand just how different it can be at times. Past hurts sometimes cause us to react without thinking. We learn to engage others in ways that minimize their ability to hurt us, or so we think. For some of us, we learn it is easier to take care of others than to let ourselves need something and then be disappointed. Over time, we establish patterns of one-sided intimacy with the people in our lives. We provide support for others, care for them, and even love them deeply, without ever realizing our own need to be cared for in the same way. It is good to give. It is good to love but when we find ourselves relying on that love to allow us to hide the truth of who we are we have reached a point where our eyes must be opened. This new sense of vision can be painful. There was a time in my life when I realized that I had sometimes loved others in order to hide myself. Please don’t misunderstand. I truly loved these people. My love for them goes deeper than I have words to express, and yet at the same time I used that love to help hide the depth of my own emotion and need. I began to believe, through countless wounds, that the world around me was capable of being truly loved but not capable of truly loving me. That fact never stopped me from loving. It was impossible to stop me from loving but it was also impossible for me to clearly see just how much it hurt me at times to close my eyes to the truth beneath the surface. I have never used love as a weapon but I realize I have used it as a mask. I have never loved expecting something in return but I have been guilty of believing I would never receive anything in return. I have loved for love’s sake alone and yet realize there were times it became convenient to hide behind it.
It is painful to realize we must adjust our sights and begin to understand things we tried so hard to avoid in the past. Mirrors are wonderful when we look our best but they can destroy our self-esteem for a while when we gaze into them unexpectedly and see areas we are lacking, areas that need attention. It is easier to not look or easier to only look when we know we have made ourselves “presentable.” We can then look piously into the glass of self-acceptance that will last only as long as our masks remain intact. True self-acceptance will only come when we learn to trust what we see when our reflection presents itself unexpectedly and then resolve within ourselves to understand and change it at its most primitive level.
So just as the words rang out when we were children, I call to you now: “Come out! Come out wherever you are!” You don’t have to spend your life in hiding, waiting for someone to find you. You can proudly step out into the sun and be exactly who you are. When you do, you will find you are the only one who has the power to truly set yourself free.