I used to recoil in horror at the way some bloggers would bare their souls to the internet, posting about marital issues, sharing pictures of their children, and essentially opening their lives to any online visitor who wanted to join them in their self-obsession. I moved in the exact opposite direction, hiding behind impersonal ideas and never sharing anything from my life.
But ideas can only take you so far. At some point you need to put those ideas to use in real life. Those real life experiences, if shared with discretion, can be truly powerful.
My desire to only deal with ideas brought another problem into sharp focus: I wanted to hide myself behind a kind of smart, intellectual veneer where I always had the answer.
While reading the blog of my friend Sarah Bessey, I saw another way forward.
Sarah is completely and unabashedly herself. After reading her for a few years, I would even dare to write (at the risk of her angry eyes) that she has shown more and more of her true self over the past few years. Either that, or she has changed the way she articulates who she is and what she believes.
When Sarah is “herself,” she is a swirl of energy, love, and emotion. You read her blog and feel like you’re reading something written by a genuine person who is sitting across from you at her kitchen table. That is a far cry from the cold, dispassionate thinker I used to idealize who carefully ticks off three critically important theological issues that have radically transformed the locus of Western intellectual determinism.
Telling a blogger, “Be yourself,” is trite, useless advice.
You may as well say, “Be American” (or Canadian in Sarah’s case, eh?).
I know that I am an American, but to actively put my American-ishness into practice is tough. Should I bake apple pie? Start a business? Fire a canon?
The only way I finally understood how to be myself was watching Sarah be herself. She has shared her tears, her triumphs, and her love with us. Her blog gives us snapshots of her family life, but we’re not getting the minute by minute chronicles of a voyeuristic blog. We’re journeying with her and zooming in on the high points that have shaped her, and she uses those moments to teach us.
Sarah has challenged me to ask a simple but frightening question:
What does it look like to be me?
I love hockey, gardening, sarcasm, and theology.
I volunteered in prisons and now volunteer at a community center, but I hesitate to share these stories because I don’t want to boast and I don’t want to turn people into my anecdotes.
I’m insecure and shy, but I crave to be around people.
I love to write things that are ridiculous, sarcastic, and parodies.
I’m at my best when I’m making fun of myself.
Both my blogging and book writing have benefitted from reading Sarah’s blog. She has given me the gift of permission to just be me with all of my imperfections and quirks. We’re really all just learning to be comfortable in our own skin, and it’s freeing to see someone model that for you, even if she’s just as terrified as everyone else.
Those who lead in this way are to be commended for their bravery.
Last of all, Sarah has the greatest, most important endorsement for her blog that any blogger could ever hope to receive.
My wife reads her blog.
So there’s that.
Go to your calendar right now and set aside a half hour to read some of Sarah’s most popular posts today.
Read more about this series.