For some of us, one of life’s greatest struggles is being authentic and transparent in our relationships: in other words, being real. Being real is not easy! Why is this is so hard for us? I believe part of the answer can be found in the children’s story, “The Velveteen Rabbit.”
The Velveteen Rabbit was feeling insignificant and ignored. He asked the old Skin Horse, “What is real?” “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” The Skin Horse responded by saying, “Real isn’t how you are made,” “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real.”
His next question was, “Does it hurt?” The unforgettable answer was, “Sometimes.” “When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.” The Rabbit then asked if it happens all at once or if it happens “bit by bit.” Here is that classic response:
“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.”
In other words, being real means experiencing love – living in relationships where love is given and received.
When we are real, we know what it means to love, and to be loved. As human beings, we were created to living in community, and to experience love in and through these communities. This is the ideal. This is what God intended and designed for us.
According to the Bible, God’s desire for us is to live in community with others, to be authentic and to be real. Just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist in community, we too are designed to live life in relationship others. So, why is it so difficult for us to be real?
One word sums up our problem, and that word is fear. If being real means being loved, what is the opposite of love? When I ask people this question, the most frequent response is, hate. That cannot be correct because the Bible says God, as pure love, hates many things such as deception and abuse of the weak. Moreover, the Bible also says, “There is no fear in love: but perfect love cast out fear …” (1 John 4:18a) Therefore, the opposite of love, God’s unconditional love, is fear.
Fear keeps us from loving and being love! It is fear that destroys relationships and keeps us from being authentic and real. Fear of being hurt keeps us from being vulnerable and developing close, healthy relationships. Fear of rejection keeps us from developing and investing in friendships, leaving us isolated and alone. Fear is the epitome of self-centeredness and is the by-product of selfishness. Fear drives us away from people and toward self-dependency that ultimately leads to self-destruction.
The good news is “God is love” and He has not given us “the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) He sent His only Son to show us how to become real. In Christ, we discover how, by God’s grace, we can become real by coming to know the One who is love incarnate. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
Be real, by becoming real through Jesus Christ!
* The Velveteen Rabbit, or, How Toys Become Real (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., ), by Margery Williams, illust. By William Nicholson / Copyright © 1922 [expired in USA] Margery Williams (1881-1944)