Broken is Best.
We would never say that being broken is best. Our world mainly celebrates stories of strength or where we have ‘become strong’, even if that has been through brokenness. We rarely celebrate the process of being broken. Being broken is hard and causes many issues as we are in fact all broken and this is the case most of the time. The Bible makes it clear that as humans we live in a very broken world and that we are part of that brokenness. We are not perfect. Believing that we are only worthy or have something to offer once we have ‘gotten over our brokenness’, sets us up to either ignore our brokenness all together, brush over it or feel shame and guilt about not being ‘good enough’ if we are still in a broken state and are struggling to break out of it.
I believe part of the issue is about what we value. We value productivity, activity, strength, popularity and outward beauty to name but a few, based on certain standards. These things are not bad in themselves per say, but they don’t sit well with brokenness. This challenges our perception of wholeness and what we believe makes us human. If to be fully human is to be all these things all of the time and to do them well when we are not able to meet these criteria or standards, we then view ourselves as falling short or not good enough. It is to say that somehow, we are ‘less human’; like there is something fundamentally wrong with us.
Wholeness doesn’t tend to conjure up pictures of broken things or people but quite the opposite. We tend to see wholeness as things that are not broken but that are perfect somehow. In our pursuit for happiness and wholeness we look for a world of unbroken people, where brokenness is not embraced but ignored, shamed or swept under the carpet. As a result, when our own brokenness shows up, we don’t know what to do with it.
This exact issue has come up when I’ve been talking with friends about the stuff we find hard, whether that is work, relationships, family or kids. Our conversations tend to always go in the same direction. We moan about finding something hard but that’s as far as it goes. We don’t want to do something about it as such because that would mean accepting that we are broken. This would mean accepting we’ve not done the job we wanted to do or that we’re somehow not as strong, good enough or perfect as we wanted to be. This perhaps seems harsh but I’m as bad as anyone. It’s often not until things are really bad that we think about getting help.
Conversations I have with many friends on the subject tend to lead to comments such as, ‘I don’t need help yet’, ‘others are far worse off than me…they need counselling’, ‘I don’t have time’, ‘my issues are not that bad’. However if I was to be brutally honest, after most of the conversations I have had with friends, I would argue that they meet the criteria for needing counselling or other helpful tools to process the tough stuff in life. They differ in need and level of severity, but all are examples of people struggling and needing support. So, what is the big deal with needing support once in a while?
I feel that part of the issue is how we view brokenness. We don’t see it in a positive light, so we don’t want anything to do with it. We have not yet reached a place where being broken and being honest and open about it is ok and something not to be judged. The worst at judging are often ourselves setting high standards of ‘not failing’, or ‘not being the ones who need help’ like I mentioned in my previous blog. I’ve been there not that long ago.
Ten or so months ago I started to notice that I was struggling to shake off what I learned to understand as ‘intrusive thoughts’. These horrible thoughts were about my kids coming to terrible, violent harm either by my own doing or someone else. We all actually have intrusive or random thoughts that aren’t always nice, jump into our minds, but normally we brush them off and they don’t cause long lasting impact.
However, mine started to terrify me. Why would I have such terrible thoughts jump into my head and why were they not leaving? I was fearful as to why I was thinking and seeing these things and was worried that others would judge me as a bad mum or that they meant there was something seriously wrong with me. I felt shame at feeling broken and not good enough as I felt they somehow showed I wasn’t managing. I decided to talk with my health visitor who explained I was seeing my greatest fears in my mind. For me, these thoughts were about harm coming to those that mattered the most in my life; my kids, and that somehow I could ever cause them harm which is the last thing I would ever want.
I noticed that I was also struggling with my mood. It was low and I was always agitated and would snap at the smallest thing. I just had this negative fear over me and had started to develop serious anxiety around it. I felt like I was being wound up like a tight spring waiting for it to snap. I was really worried about what would happen if it did snap and so I decided that I wanted to do something about it.
I summoned up the courage to contact a postnatal counsellor who specialised in this kind of thing. Through support from her, I learned that I had something called complex postnatal PTSD from my births with my kids (which were pretty terrible), and my childhood, where I had experienced trauma in a number of different ways. This all contributed to me not feeling safe, and as a result feeling that those around me who mattered most, were not safe either.
Having now come to the end of my recent counselling process, I have learned some really important things mainly about myself. I wanted to share these things, as I hope they might encourage you to seek the help if you’re struggling, and to know that we all need support in one form or another at different points in our lives.
- We are all broken. Some more than others, but we all are.
- We often can’t take back the stuff that has led to us being broken, as more often than not, it is out with our control. We can however, take responsibility for its impact on our lives. I realised I had a responsibility to make sure my mess didn’t mess up the most important people in my life. If that meant I had to do some tough work on myself, then I was willing to do whatever it took.
- Our pasts matter, but they don’t have to define us. That choice is ours.
- If I accept that I am broken I allow myself to be me, just as I am.
- My life is a role model to my family, friends and kids whether I like it or not. Am I modeling acceptance, grace and kindness, or perfection, shame and guilt?
In this process my faith has been an anchor for me in what has been a big storm. My faith tells me I matter to God, I am made in his image and that despite my brokenness, in him I find wholeness, healing and freedom.