This is a passage from a book on marriage that I’ve been writing for the last few months. It is unedited for grammar and content. You can send it to read on your Kindle device by clicking the button below.
The greatest lie is also the most commonly believed lie. We believe we’re the only ones who are going through what we’re going through. We believe our experience is unique. We know it’s not true. We know that someone else somewhere is feeling the pain, frustration or confusion that we’re feeling but still we think we’re the only one. We know the truth is that we’re not alone but that message doesn’t make its way to our hearts. Do you remember going to a haunted house? Not the real kind, the ones that charge you to then do their best to scare the crap out of you. Does anyone in line for the “haunted house” really believe that anything they’re about to see is real? They know the truth but that truth is not as strong as their experience. Our present reality is always stronger than a preexisting truth. Our reality, our experience is more valid than the truth that we’re not alone. Trying to believe that we’re not alone is like trying to carry on a conversation while a baby cries. There are some influences that will always win. There are some voices that will always be heard over the others. The voice that tells us, “You’re the only one.” Is the voice we believe more than any other.
Some lies are more dangerous than others. Pornography is a lie and it’s a dangerous one. Pornography’s lie is that it’s real and that because it’s real it will satisfy you. Obviously it isn’t real. The women aren’t really happy, the roles aren’t honest and the satisfaction we feel when we see it doesn’t satisfy. It’s like eating pixie sticks for lunch. It’s food but it’ll kill you if you keep eating it. The lie that you’re the only one is the most harmful lie you can believe because it pins us down and keeps us where we are. Listen, if you’re in a relationship you’re going get hurt at some point. You’re going struggle to understand your spouse, girlfriend, whoever you’ve got the emotional connection with. To think that your struggle is insurmountable or that you’re the only human being on the planet, country, state, city, church or even block to feel that way is just not true. When you believe you’re the only one you get stuck.
When we cancelled our cable television a few years ago I called the satellite company and told them I wanted to cancel our service. They asked me why and I told them, “I don’t want to watch as much television.” The operator had no idea what to say. If they offered me a discount that wouldn’t help their case. If they paid me to use their service I wouldn’t accept the offer. They were stuck because my answer was very, very unique. When we get stuck we usually do two things, nothing or too much. When you feel isolated in your pain you may want to give up and resign yourself to do nothing to fix your situation. It feels terminal. There’s no one who can help and you can’t help yourself so you do nothing. The other option when we feel isolated is to thrash. We get angry because we feel trapped, helpless and alone. We make things worse when we choose to do nothing or make it worse by getting angry. If you’re stuck then you are stuck.
You want to hear a stupid phrase? “Pick yourself up by your bootstraps”. If you’re not familiar with the phrase let me explain when you might hear it. If you’re struggling someone might say, “Just pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!” This saying is stupid because it implies that when you’re stuck that you can get yourself out of it. If you could fix your situation yourself you probably would. Most of the time you can’t fix it alone so that’s why we have people we love around us. If you try to fix yourself you might as well try to do open heart surgery on yourself. You’re not alone. Your experience is not unique. Other people have felt and other people will feel the pain you’re experiencing. Do not try to fix yourself. You got yourself into this situation. Remember what they tell you if you get lost in the forest. If you get lost just stop and wait for help. In this situation you do need to stop but you also need to make a call. Call someone you love and who you know loves you and ask them to pick you up. Picking yourself up by your own bootstraps isn’t going to work. You’re not alone unless you want to be. You’re not isolated unless you want to be. You’re not unique unless you choose to close off all communication with others who will undoubtably have a shared experience.
Many of us choose to believe we’re the only ones because it’s embarrassing to admit that we’re struggling. The pain of our situation seems to hurt less than the pain of admitting to someone else that we’re a mess. You are a mess though. You’re a mess and the person you could be confiding in to get help has also been a mess at some point. People who have never been a mess are a lying or they’re in denial. You don’t want to be friends with someone who isn’t messed up. You won’t have anything in common. Here’s a conversation with a perfect person.
“How’s your family Mike?” you say.
“Oh, the wife is in perfect shape, our sex life is through the roof, I just got a raise at my job and I only work five hours a week, my kids all have straight A’s and I can’t remember the last time I had any conflict with my family.” Bob says.
So what do you say next? I’m not encouraging you to struggle so you have something to talk about and I’m not promoting making mistakes so you have a shared experience. I don’t have to do that because we do it without anyone telling us to. We find connection in our victories and our failures but don’t we usually find deeper connections in our struggles? We can pretend all is well (which is what church lobbies are known for) but real life happens when we pool our pain and collectively take action to help each other heal. Today I responded to a man who became a Christian at age 42 after being influenced by Dave Ramsey, Zig Ziglar and Andy Andrews. He had reached out to me to thank me for a podcast I do with Andy Andrews. I didn’t want to discourage him but I said, “Remember that all Christians have two things in common. They’re all sinners and they all know it. That’s why they asked Jesus to come into their lives to help.” There is the strength required to go through life alone and the strength it takes to admit that you cannot handle going through life alone. Which is stronger? It may seem noble to not ask for help but it’s neither noble nor intelligent.
If you’re drowning and you’re too proud to ask for help then you’re going to die. You can’t blame anyone else for your pain if you’re unwilling to ask for help when you need it. The rugged individualism that has become a hallmark of the American experience is good if you’re trying to settle land in the 1880’s but in our modern day our individualism isn’t guaranteeing our survival, it’s ensuring the death of our marriages. You’re not alone unless you choose to be. You’re not the only one who has gone through the pain you’re going through unless you choose to believe that. What you believe is not necessarily the truth though, it’s just what you believe. I choose to believe the truth though and I hope you do too. You’re not alone in your experience or in your situation if you don’t choose to be.
Do you tell yourself this lie too?