Everyone is fighting battles that we may know nothing about. The magnitude of this statement could not be any truer. We, as humans, are trained to think that anything about us that is different, is weakness. Therefore, we hide it. We keep it hidden because to appear like anything less than perfect is unforgivable to some.
Yet, what if we wore our battles on our sleeves. What if the worries of our heart, mind, and soul were out there for the world to see? What if we wore a shirt that detailed our battles? Here are just a few examples:
“I am drowning in debt, and about to lose everything I own.”
“My husband has had multiple affairs.”
“I am in an abusive relationship.”
“My wife was diagnosed with cancer and has just months to live.”
“I have a drug addiction.”
Sometimes, however, we would encounter someone whose shirts might be so full that it would be impossible to read. For example, this would be my shirt.
“I have severe anxiety, panic disorder, and PTSD. I was a victim of childhood abuse. I mourn the loss of three children I never got to meet. I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. I hurt all the time.”
What would happen if we were to advertise our battles? As someone who has been very open about my anxiety, and all my other battles, I can tell you that to wear your battle on your sleeve is a multitude of things. To wear your battles means you risk the judgement of others. It may mean that others view you differently. It may mean that you will be ridiculed.
However, it may also mean that your bravery would help someone. It may mean that by advertising your battles you show the strength you possess. Because it does show strength. It shows a greater strength than you could ever know. You WILL be judged. No matter what you do, people will have an opinion. There is no way to please everyone.
Some people will view your victories and they will celebrate with you. Some people will see only your failures — your short comings. Those people will take every opportunity to cut you down. Trust me, I know. I have both types of people in my life.
I have those who are supportive and compassionate. They have been with me in the trenches and they have helped get me to where I am. They celebrate my successes and are there for me when I am not as a strong as I want to be.
Then, I have those people who throw jabs at me every chance they get. They focus only on my weaknesses and it is almost as if they take great pleasure in judging me for it. They call me weak. They well me I limit myself. They advertise my shortcomings any opportunity they get. They talk about me behind my back, thinking I don’t know. Those people, in one moment, can undo any progress I make.
But what is their purpose? If you asked them, they would tell you that they are doing it to help. However, if they were, they wouldn’t judge. You see, there are two places that criticism comes from. The first is a place of love, and it is given with love and grace.
For instance, a conversation with someone who criticizes with the purpose of love would look like this.
“You know that I love you. I worry that your anxiety is keeping your from living a life that you deserve. What can I do to help you?”
On the other spectrum, a conversation with someone who criticizes with malice intent looks like this.
“You are weak. Why can’t you just get over it? It’s all in your head.”
What is my point for talking about this? My point is this. If you are criticizing someone and your conversation with them looks like the later of the two, you need to examine yourself before you have anymore conversations. You need to determine why you have a hard heart and you need to deal with that, because I can assure you that coming at someone with a hard heart will do nothing to benefit either of you. It will cause dissention and hard feelings. Not just with you and the person you are criticizing, but their entire support system. There is nothing that you can say about that person, that will make those who truly love them see them as anything other than the warrior they are.
So, what if we wore our battles on our chests proudly? Well, we might find out something about other people and treat them with kindness. But then again, we might find out something about ourselves. We might find how compassionate we are, or how malice our hearts are. We are all fighting battles. We should treat people how we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes and pray every day that the actions, we do are helpful to others. Afterall, God loves us despite our shortcomings. He loves us exactly as we are.