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If you’re broken, get to brokenness

We’re all broken, some of us are just more committed to not admitting the fact. We hide in the language of victimization and responsibility-ducking. We look for others to blame or reasons that justify our behavior.   It can be exasperating to deal with a close friend or someone in your…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
We’re all broken, some of us are just more committed to not admitting the fact. We hide in the language of victimization and responsibility-ducking. We look for others to blame or reasons that justify our behavior.
 
It can be exasperating to deal with a close friend or someone in your family who prefers to duck and dodge as opposed to trading in reality.
 
Stop for a second and think of a person for whom this is true.
 
Got that person in mind? Think about the effort you may have expended in getting them to look at the reality of their broken behavior. Confrontation is uncomfortable for most people – if you brought it to their attention, it cost you energy and maybe stress. And how did the person you confronted respond? Did they divert attention by pointing out someone else’s behavior? Did you get embroiled in a complicated conversation that took you far from the issue you were trying to address with them?
 
If so, welcome to the club. Admitting the reality of being broken is costly – most people won’t go there without a fight. To do otherwise can require either committing to fix the issue or being exposed as deficient when it’s all they can do to just make it through the day.
 
All of us, when we get to the place in our lives where we see how broken we are, have a choice to make. We can avoid the pain of dealing with it by deflecting attention from it. Or we can admit it.
 
If we admit that we are broken and embrace that reality, then we have arrived at the unpleasant and lonely place of brokenness. The good news about brokenness is that you no longer have to expend all the energy to keep up appearances – you can now take that energy and apply it to getting to a place of wholeness. People who work with addicts call this “hitting bottom.” Until a person hits bottom and says, “Yes, the reality is, I’m broken. I’ve wanted a drink worse that I’ve wanted to stop lying to people,” they can’t begin to heal.
 
The bad news about getting to brokenness is that you are likely to experience a profound sense
of disorientation. What used to come naturally no longer works. You’re unsure of yourself. And as
you look at the parts of your life that feel hopelessly broken, you can come to the
conclusion, “I’m a mess. I’m useless to anybody. I should just give
up.”

The truth is, you were always a mess, always broken, just like the rest of us. Getting
to brokenness involves coming to a greater awareness of what others can
plainly see. God allows you to go blithely through life, ignorant of the
things that sabotage your relationships and work. But he’ll allow the
evidence of your brokenness to accumulate until it reaches the tipping
point and you can acknowledge that not only is what you’re doing not
working for you, but that you need to make a change.
 
So, here’s a message from all of us who have committed to dropping the defensive posture that looks at others before we look at ourselves, to the rest of you who are working hard at guarding your brokenness:
 
Isn’t it time to stop the masquerade? You exhaust us. Even saying this to you now feels exhausting. We only want to see you whole and happy. All the deflection, the passive-aggressive conversations, the endless expenditure of energy to avoid admitting what all of us plainly see is simply not worth it. What you’re protecting is not worth the effort – yours and ours. If you could see the way it has hurt the very people you love and pushed them away from you, you wouldn’t be as committed to hiding as you are. Today would be a good day to let your healing begin. We promise that we’ll show you the grace that you need to find your way back to daylight. We’ll love you and encourage you the best way we know how. We’ve been there ourselves and know well the grace we needed.

Comments (16)

  • You see me for what I am and we have never met. I am broken and I am tired of pretending not to be, and hurting the people I love. I want to be whole, but do not know how to get there.
    Please keep me and my family in prayer.

  • St. Mark of the Cross

    I confess I am broken, bruised, battered, don’t have all the answers, and I am needy…now can I run for my life…to Jesus & all of you to love, heal, & accept me? No pun intended here…just how I feel about all of us…I guess I realize finally that the reason God has put so many broken people in my life all these years is that he wanted me to see a mirror of how he sees me…and he wanted me to look at that reflection and cry out for help. thanks for being a broken reflection in my mirror..

  • Love that last paragraph… may we have both grace and courage to come out from behind the mask and to welcome the transparency of others too… ((Tonya, Jesus knows the way to your healing. I found that when I cried out and just told God I would follow everything He showed me 100% – people started showing up in my life to help and point the way. He guided me to the scriptures I needed to hear and even the books I needed to read. He wants you to be whole more than anyone. He will not let you down.))

  • Brokenness has made me comfortable in my own skin. It’s brought me to a place of being able to say, “This is who I am. This is what you get. I’m not a superstar. I’m not anything special. I’m just Gabe. And my wife, my kids, and my Father in heaven love me anyway.” Brokenness has brought me much happiness and freedom.

  • Brokenness is the only way to become truly alive. I am pretty battered at the moment, but then again, there is more space for the light to shine through that way…

  • Seth thanks for the positive prod here. One of the neglected realities of embracing brokenness is the need to surround yourself with “real” people and not those who deflect attention from their own shattered worlds by trying to “fix” yours. Its one of the reasons Saint James Church (Ted and Gayle Haggard’s fellowship in Colorado Springs) is growing so fast. People are encouraged to be open, broken, busted and bruised without the pretense so endemic to the church at large. In the healing journey of my life it is recovering addicts who often project superior healing aromas because they know what is broken. The subtleties of organized faith and a socialized Gospel make healing hard because the masquerade ball is by invitation only and no one wants misfits. The greatest new joy in life is getting closer to a place where I care less what other people think. My limp is God’s delight. And the first steps to wholeness are the ones acknowledging weakness. Jesus never asked us to fall on swords. He invited us to lean on Him.

  • Admitting brokenness privately is somewhat easy. Going public to get help is a kind of suicide. Just that what hangs is the false-self. The greatest challenge I’ve seen around me is that there are very few safe places “people” to unmask to.

    Help, REAL HELP seems far away for many masquerades. The more our leaders come into the light with their broken bits and pieces (whether by an act of God or by choice) and we see their humanness, the sooner a victorious Church steps into its place in a dark world and reveal Jesus.

    Seth, this talk of the Mask has gone very far and will go even further. The challenge is HUGE. Thanx again for keeping it before our eyes.

  • For anybody who if familiar with a 12 step program, you probably know about the step that requires you to take an honest moral inventory of your life. In many groups, that is interpreted as making a list of junk you ever did in your addiction. Although that is not inherently wrong, it doesn’t lead us to the place of a broken and contrite spirit.

    The way that we approach that step is to look at your wrongs from the perspective of sin. In other words, how does your current lifestyle compare to the destiny that God planned for you before you were born. How have you wronged God by choosing to be the god of you own life instead of giving Him that rightful position. How have you robbed God of the relationship that He longs to have with His created? We could go on with this line of questioning, but you can see the difference between this and making a list of how many people you stole from, how many people you lied to, how many people you’ve harmed…

    When we look at our lives in relation to God and the purpose He created us for, we see how we’ve greived God. That is brokeness. We were created to bring joy and life and blessing, but when we set out on our own will we bring pain, destruction, and death.

    In addition to bringing us to brokeness, this type of inventory also gets us in touch with what God wants to restore in us. It gives us hope that we can still be all of those things that God created us to be. It gives us something to look toward and live for. We find that God is not angry, but rather desperate to get out attention long enough for Him to show us His love.

    If you’ve ever had a job doing inventory, you know that the purpose of an inventory is to determine what is there and what is not. It’s not about desciding wheter a product is good or bad. It’s not about evaluating comsumer response. Those kind of judgements happen in other departments. Invetory is a simple yes it’s there, or no it is not.

    I encourage you to approach your own inventory in the same manor. Just look at what is there and what is not, and then take it to God and let Him be the judge. He is much more merciful that you will ever be. When He shows you what needs to go, let Him take it. When He shows you what needs to be added, ask Him to add it.

    He had the vision for your life and put everything in you to accomplish it. He is able and willing to completely restore you to that vision. Give Him that chance.

  • Where’s the “like” button for that comment, Kim – I did one of those inventories last year in Celebrate Recovery, but never viewed it quite like that. Super.

  • An open invitation is what Jesus offers every person. When we do likewise, pretense is put on notice. Connecting with others who genuinely care often leads to masks being dropped. But it begins by saying “yes” to the invite. I am grateful for the freedom I found in Jesus and His followers to simply be the me He created, no masks–showing blemishes and all.

    Thank you for your heart-searching posts. I always enjoy reading them.

  • I wish I could have come to the place in my life to see this truth long before I did. Even when I did accept it and desire the change, it’s still going on. Every day. Every choice.

    It permeated every part of my “reality”.

    Great post, Seth. Perfect wording. I pray all who read it take it a step further in their own lives.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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