Her coffee was cold and mine had been gone for at least 40 minutes, but we were still wading deep into all the “what ifs” and “yeah, buts”. As she explained one more time all the reasons why she wasn’t lovable, I listened for the places I could poke holes in her theory. She was a high school student and I had twelve years of life experience on her, although she still claimed to be the expert here. She recounted the stories about how she had messed up. She reminded me again about what had been done to her and how she had been damaged. Her eyes filled with tears when she got to the part of her story about nobody rescuing her and what that meant about her worth. With arms crossed and shoulders slumped, her face said ‘now how can you argue with that?’
I let the awkward silence build, not wanting to rush past her pain. Finally I leaned in and reminded her of the truth that although her perception was that she was damaged and not lovable, that was not the version of her the rest of the world saw. Arms still crossed, she leaned in and said in an almost triumphant voice, “Okay, but my perception is my reality.” I feel like she may have even whispered “checkmate.” While she thought this cliché helped her win her case, I saw it as my open door.
Her perception, her reality, was the lie in her head and not at all the truth. While she clung to this lie and I voiced the truth about how I saw her, my side also supported by how all of our mutual friends saw and loved her, we came to an impasse. Both versions of this story about my dear friend could not both be true. She had to decide if she wanted to continue in her perception, which left her locked in her own prison, or if she wanted to trust that there might be a better story. I knew there was love and grace and acceptance and redemption for her. I knew it. But I also knew that misery loved company. It would be easier for her to stay camped out in her perception and give me story after story to support her case than for her to start to trust in a truth that would set her free.
After several more conversations it remained clear that my friend liked this version of her story too much to let it go. We met off and on for a few more months but we both got busy and canceled until we lost track of whose turn it was to reschedule. I can still picture her brown eyes, big and sad yet so full of potential. I hope she somehow found her way to a better perception, a better reality. Sometimes when I get stuck in my own negativity or get sucked into believing a lie about myself, I think back on my conversations with this girlie. When the lies speak louder than the truth, I need to remember the reality of my freedom and believe in the truth of amazing grace. I put myself on her side of the table and I listen to my twenty-something self, in all her wisdom, say that there is a better version to this story. There is love and grace and acceptance and redemption.
And it’s as simple as trusting that it’s true.