“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘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.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘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. But once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.
–Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
One of my favorite childhood stories is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams because it is the story of becoming authentic and allowing yourself to be worn through the trials of being human. It is the story of how vulnerability can change us; breaking us open, so that we can truly enjoy others because we have embraced our busted seams, tattered fur and threadbare paws. I cried my eyes out each time I read it but still felt a great sense of hope and pure love.
The Velveteen Rabbit, once a beloved shiny stuffed bunny was loved so deeply for a short time by The Boy, who began to see the Rabbit as real, that all of the wear and fear from allowing himself to be vulnerability stripped him of his shininess and his un-realness. When the boy finally “moves on” as children (and all people) can do sometimes, the Rabbit was heartbroken, feeling discarded and diminished.
In his deepest moments of sadness, after crying his first real tear a beautiful fairy in a flower came to make him into a Real rabbit, where he could hop and jump and skip with the other rabbits (who had once been discarded). The Velveteen Rabbit could never have enjoyed the beauty of being Real had he not experienced being vulnerable and open.
The Velveteen Rabbit is a beautiful metaphor for the value of authenticity and vulnerability. When we allow ourselves to be deeply effected by someone we are in essence, becoming more “Real” through our openness. And as the Skin Horse wisely tells the little rabbit sometimes becoming Real hurts.
If someone has the power to effect us deeply then they have the power to hurt us deeply as well. However beyond our human interactions we may truly be afraid of letting in the Divine (as in our relationship with the Self). If we truly let in the intimacy we all claim to crave from others then we begin to recognize that all human interactions are merely Self meeting Self. We start to recognize that others are merely a mirror.
Being loved sometime hurts. Although we do our utmost not to deliberatley hurt those we love, the truth is, we do and they hurt us because our hearts are exposed the most to one another. I can’t think of a greater way to live and communicate than to live wide open and authentically – to be Real with one another. The concept is scary, terrifying even and for me I know this is one of my battles and lessons I need to learn in this lifetime. To overcome this fear.
Here are some awesome points I found on the restlessimagination blogspot:
I’m not afraid of being in imperfect shape, for that means I’m not left on the shelf, untouched and unharmed.
I’m not afraid of my ears begin lopsided and my eyes drooping by affectionate touches.
I’m not afraid of the seams of my edges fraying from so much caressing.
I’m not afraid of going bald because I was rubbed to vigorously.
I’m not afriad of my stuffing being enthusiastically squeezed out of me.
I want to endure all that Love is for the sake of being Real.. the good days and bad.
I want to expose my sunshine as well as my darkness.
I want to express joy as well as sorrow, courage and fear, peace and anxiety.
I want to be challenged when I am wrong, encouraged when I am scared and lovingly laughed at when I am being rediculous.
I want to be comforted and played with.
I want to be cherished and treasured.
I want to be needed and wanted and liked and loved.
I want to be seen, heard, felt and tasted.
I want to experience the full spectrum of Love.
I always want the kind of love that makes me Real.
I want to be Real!
In the words of Melissa Etheridge, “I want to live my life pursuing all my happiness. I want a fearless love, I won’t settle for anything less.”
When I close my eyes to wonder and meditate on what the expression on Jesus’ face must have looked like as he agonized up the ‘via doloroso, ’ his shoulders hunched by the wood of the cross and the weight of the world’s pride like the shoulders of a homeless man, I come face to face with real love. As the blood from the crown of thorns begins to blur his vision, he stumbles. And then He slowly rises again. There is nothing lovely here visually. It’s violent, it’s shocking and it’s real. But it is also the purest of love from a spiritual perspective.
Whenever you encounter and receive real, unconditional love from another, like a planted and watered seed under the sun, it cannot help but give birth (often painfully) to a new realm of personal freedom and expression. This new freedom is what allows us to become our true selves, to express ourselves without the fear of judgment, rejection or ridicule from others. Finally, we are then free to love others with that same unconditional love, thereby helping set others free from the very chains with which we were once enslaved. Unfortunately, this unbridled expression of true freedom can often cause friction or even alienation from those who have yet to recognize their own delusion of self-righteousness, lack of forgiveness, and coldness from the invisible prison in which they live, as they become jealous of your joy and envious of your freedom.
This is the “good” in the ‘good news’ or gospel–that God loves the real you and refuses to have a relationship with your best foot forward. You don’t have to (and are frankly unable) to clean yourself up before approaching Him. Virtue is the fruit of faith, not the generator of it. The reactions or opinions of others no longer have the same power over you because God’s still, small voice has broken through, and His word alone is all that matters. His banner over you is love. Can you hear Him? “Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28).
When you consider who or what is real in your life, you may notice that the real things are a bit weathered. It takes a long time to become real. Like the voice of Johnny Cash or Van Morrison. I think of the rugged coastline in Ireland or the withered, rough hands and face of Mother Theresa, or a few friendships I’m blessed to have. They’re not perfect. You may also notice that in everyday life, there is a higher cost for what is real: A fine steak, aged bourbon or scotch, genuine works of art or the sacrifices required for a good, real marriage. The price is high but the experience so much richer.
In our shallow pop culture, I fear that real people (and real music for that matter) are endangered. The Devil doesn’t want us or our love to ever become real because he knows the road to hell is paved with good intentions. He tells us to simply be polite, politically correct, to not get too deep, to look out solely for our own interests. We’re encouraged to live as comfortably as possible, to medicate whatever pain we may experience, to justify breaking our marriage vows if necessary, to sanitize our neighborhoods of the poor and the homeless, or to hide our elderly in nursing homes. The world doesn’t want your faith to ever be realized in this life. This is why Jesus and the Church place such an enormous emphasis on manifesting and incarnating the love of God to the ‘least of these’ through sacrificial acts of mercy, compassion and kindness (Matthew 25:40).
Here is how I see it in my relationship to self and others: (portion taken from insightfulinnovations.com)
We project our need for love and acceptance on the other and expect a certain response. Some people make a habit of doing this with many people (spreading the expectancy around) while others reserve it for only a few (or maybe one…or none) but ultimately we are all seeking a mirror. The difficult lesson to integrate is that no matter what the other person reflects back to us it still self informing self.Perhaps If we think of showing vulnerability as the self seeking comfort from the self (in another person) it can take the sting out of it when apparently our needs don’t get met. And if it still terrifies us then we can practice being vulnerable to ourselves first. Love yourself until your fur rubs off and your seams pop, and then the terror of being vulnerable to another is lessened because you’re already well-love-worn. However, if you’re like most of us, relationships are the quickest way to get a little wear and tear on our fur.
If we can’t admit or show our vulnerabilities to ourselves than being vulnerable and open with another will feel like the ultimate death when we aren’t fulfilled. We will feel “unreal”. It will register as self rejecting self. There is no way to be rejected, ridiculed or dismissed if you can accept, comfort and welcome yourself.
If another person does it to you, they are merely confused, and have yet to realize that their response to you is only a response to the part of themselves that have yet to see. They’re treating you the way they would treat themselves. It’s not personal (but it can sure feel that way.)
So even though you may not be ready to run out and spill your stuffing to everyone you see try doing it to yourself first. Be your own fairy in the flower, or find someone safe (your own Skin Horse) who can remind you that Real is a process. If you find that you still reject, dismiss, admonish or patronize yourself, than you know where your work is. Wouldn’t it be hypocritical to expect someone else to treat you in a way you can’t even treat yourself?
So like the Skin Horse says to the little Rabbit, “real isn’t something you are, it’s something you become.” We become Real through experiencing the full range of ourselves reflected in others, and recognizing it is but a reflection of our own state. With practice we can accept what we see and love ourselves anyway. Only then can we truly be open to loving and accepting someone else. All the wear and tear is the sometimes agonizing beauty of this human condition. And just imagine how wonderful it would be if we could all let our threads show, knowing that this is what makes each of us so very Real.
May you reach your fullest and happiest self. May you enjoy the process in all it’s pain and pleasure of becoming Real!