“Jon, I have followed you for at least 14 years. Sometimes I have been amazed by your caring, loving, and generosity and sometimes appalled at your insensitive comments. Most of all, I stay because you are truly human and there for us all to learn from. How I wish I could sit down and truly meet you, but I must settle to be invited to YOUR blog where I am the guest, not the one with the microphone. I continually will admire you and hopefully see my humanity through yours. Bless you and thank you.” – Barbara N.
I love this message I got this morning from a long-time reader named Barbara Neely. In a time of anger, shameless dishonesty, and cruelty, she is wise, honest, and deeply insightful.
I felt love and gratitude when I read this message; she permits me to be a flawed human being (I’m not running for Saint) and accepts me for who I am, not who she might be or might like me to be.
That is a rare thing in our culture today.
She says nothing about me that I don’t know and haven’t said many times about myself.
When I started my blog, I made a vow to be honest, not slick or self-aggrandizing, and to show my bad side as well as my good side, they sometimes trade places with one another. I am a deeply flawed human being, that is what drives and defines me.
I always said if you read my work, you’ll get the good Katz or the bad Katz, but you will always get the real one. That’s my moral code as a writer, and I understood it upsets people, who sometimes expect something else. Our society rewards the false and punishes the honest.
My salvation is learning to be honest. It is sacred to me.
I am sorry I can’t give everyone what they want, but not very.
My blog has put me on a path to authenticity, long and hard, as Barbara surely knows. I have a long way to go.
As I see it, I am not much different than most human beings, except I am not pretending to be something I am not. And I don’t hide what I feel. And I feel a lot of things.
I am not a perfect or one-dimensional person, all one thing or another. I am not patient or gentle. Except when I am.
My blog is part of the process of understanding myself and learning to be authentic. It is never easy, but always rewarding. At least once every week, someone discovers that I am not an angel, or sometimes insensitive, and is shocked and betrayed, and demands that I be better.
I don’t really know anyone who isn’t a mix of things, good and bad. Isn’t that what it means to be human? Why does it shock and anger so many people? Can anyone reading this look in the mirror and see a perfect human looking back? Are any of us so pure that we have the right to tell other people how to be?
I’ve learned not to judge them, especially when I face the truth about myself.
I’ve learned to accept that complexity in others, but I can’t expect everyone to accept that in me. That’s the trade-off, I get to write and way what I believe, and not everyone will like it. I can take it.
Even the Dalai Lama concedes he can be a nasty and ill-tempered monster around the people he works with. And Gandhi was a miserable human by all accounts.
What is special about Barbara’s message is that she understands what it means to be human. And she accepts me for the kind of human that I am.
That is a rare gift. The whole point of meditation and contemplation writes Thomas Merton, is that we face the truth about ourselves, however painful that can be. We are all broken, we are all imperfect.
I get to be honest about me. I don’t tell other people what to do or how to feel.
Every word of Barbara’s message is true, I believe, the good and the bad. That is the mix of me, my DNA, and only recently have I come to realize that I need to accept that about myself and do what good I can around it.
Barbara has captured the core of me and captured it eloquently and beautifully.
I am not all good, I am not all bad. Take what you need and leave the rest behind.
There is no hiding the truth. That is a great gift you have, Barbara, and I thank you for it. And thanks for hanging in there with me for 14 years, poor thing, you are the saint.
And most of all, thanks for loving me for who I am, not for who I am not. Stick around, the best is yet to come.