For the last year or so I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to take off my headphones when I’m going somewhere and to just spend time listening to what is going on around me. Many times I just hear the metro announcements or semi-trucks pulling to a stop, but even so, it’s good to have a release from blocking out the noise around me.
It frees you up to hear good sounds, too. Sounds like kids laughing. Wind blowing through the trees. Birds singing for anyone who is listening. It somehow also opens your eyes in a new way, or rather, you just become more observant of what you’re looking at instead of just listening to a song that no one else can hear.
Our headphones can block out sounds that we might prefer to listen to, but I think we also like blocking out our lives from everyone else. It’s that privacy we all put such a high priority on. When you think about it, it’s kind of strange that we could be standing two feet from someone else and not listening to the exact same sounds that they are. We are right next to people but not living in the same moment they are in.
I think that in this day and age, we are in a time when people want to be more connected yet disconnected than ever before. We have a million social media apps to connect with society and culture, but so many people dread having to make a phone call instead of texting. We will post our thoughts for the entire world to see online and still get annoyed if someone asks us directions on the street. We are so closely connected yet so far disconnected.
We’ve disconnected from reality and the world around us and connected into a reality that is on our terms and conditions. We only let them see what we want them to see. Only the best pictures of us. Only the coolest events we attend. Only the happiest moments of our lives. Or seemingly happiest moments.
How did we end up in a constant happiness competition with the world? We’ve been given the opportunity to present more of our lives than ever before, but we are falsely advertising ourselves and who we really are for fear that someone might think we don’t have it all together. Because weakness is unattractive. It’s embarrassing. Weakness is the opposite of success.
Let’s say you’re going to buy a new car, but you will never get to test drive it. You have to make up your mind based solely from pictures and online descriptions. Would you buy it? Look, I buy dumb stuff off of Amazon.com all the time (most recently, 3 pairs of fingerless gloves that I thought was a good deal) but I don’t think I’d buy a car without actually getting to be around it and see for myself if it is really what it’s been presented as online. I’d want to see how it runs and hear how it sounds. Something a picture could never come close to showing me.
If you wouldn’t buy a car based on pictures, why are we so quick to assume that people are just as put together as they would lead you to believe? And why do you think anyone should believe you’re holding it together as much as you want them to believe you are?
I am not telling you to be like me and to be someone that will pour out their heart to a rock if it looks at them inquisitively, but I do think our lives are meant to benefit others by using our weaknesses just as much as we use our strengths.
I love the Apostle Peter. He’s probably my favorite person in the Bible (Yes, besides Jesus. Don’t freak out, home-schoolers.) He made quite a few mistakes that were written into arguably the most sold book of all time. Millions of people have heard about Peter’s struggles and mistakes. I have wondered what Peter would say if he came back and read the Bible today. I wonder if he would have said, “What the heck, John! Why did you put that part about me denying Christ in there? I didn’t want anyone to know about that.”
If he did feel that way, I’d be the first to tell him that his stories of weakness have helped me more than his stories of getting things right. In fact, I couldn’t truly appreciate the things he got right without knowing he was a man of many faults and fears. I can identify with him because I am man with faults and fears of my own.
On paper, it doesn’t make sense for our weaknesses to posses strength, but they do. It is a beautiful paradox of life. You can never know the full extent of your strength until it meets opposition.
Maybe it’s time we start removing our headphones and listening to the sounds of our world. A world that needs you to be a participant in it. A world that needs you to be who you really are. A world that needs your honesty. Don’t hide your weakness, boast in it. I’m betting you’ll find a greater strength show up than you ever knew was there waiting.