What Does It Mean To Be Real?


“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” —The Skin Horse, to the Velveteen Rabbit, on being real.   ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

This quote is from one of my favorite childhood books. I think the skin horse was pretty wise, for being a toy. Sounds to me as if he understood the realities of living better than humans, wouldn’t you say?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it means to “be real” with other people. It can be a scary thought for many of us, but necessary if we are going to have relationships with other people that really matter, and aren’t just pleasantries and plastic facades. I’m not saying that we should let everyone know all our business, or that we should blurt out anything that comes to our mind in the name of “being honest and keeping it real”, because quite frankly, that more times than not, is less than helpful. I’m not talking about being real in bold smugness, but more in allowing us to have a humble servant’s heart towards others.

I am considering what it means to be imperfect with others. To not be scared to allow people to see my mistakes, my failures, my shortcomings. There is something about knowing another person has the same problems as you, it makes the problems a little less scary, and a lot more human. Don’t we look at another person sometimes and think to ourselves, if he/she can do it, I can too! Many times it really isn’t necessary that anyone do anything in particular, just lend genuine support, a listening ear, and maybe some heartfelt empathy for what the other person is going through.

Life has it’s wonderful “mountain top” experiences, where everything is right with the world…..but, those times tend to be a rare triumph. Most of us live in the shadows of the mountains, here in the day to day. Oh, life is still good, or it can be, but we deal more with the routines and struggles of a climber that is out of breath and out of sorts. Deadlines and dead loved ones, forgotten appointments and disappointments, meals to plan and plans to make, jobs with bosses that just don’t get it and getting it all wrong for the umpteenth time. College, and careers. Dates and do-overs. Marriages and misunderstandings. Kids and courage. Tears and laughter and everything in between. That is where we live. That is real.

As a follower of Christ, He calls me to be real with people. Often times, it is in our most vulnerable moments, when the mask falls to the floor and shatters into a million jagged pieces, that our hearts are softened and we can be genuine and real. It draws others to us—because they understand. They have been there too.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31 
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2