I’ve been playing this game on a daily basis for the last few weeks. Almost-3yo Phlox loves each part of the game. “Close your eyes! 1-2-3…I found you!” When she first began to play this game she would sometimes hide in plain site just by covering her own eyes. As if I can’t see her because she can’t see me. This cracked me up! Phloooox I seeee you! Still with her hands over her eyes she would exclaim, “Come find me!”
I played hide and seek with an adult the other day. The conversation went something like this;
Me: You seem bothered.
Friend: No I’m not.
Me: Yes. You are.
Friend: No I’m not.
I stood there and watched my friend’s face change from a smile to a sad disheartened stare and then quickly to a more fiercely hardened look. And, she walked away. It was obvious to me that something I said bothered her and she didn’t want to acknowledge it. What she was communicating went something like this;
Me: I see you.
Friend: No you don’t. (hands over eyes)
Me: Yes I do.
Friend: No you WON’T. (hands over eyes)
My friend has a pattern of avoiding her emotions and pretending she feels “fine” when she is actually hurt, scared, sad, angry…Sadly, this means that our friendship lacks the depth and connection that can only come from being honest–even if it’s uncomfortable.
I believe my friend was scared. I get scared too. See, I think that most people try to hide in plain site. Perhaps they make it through life just by peeking between their fingers–letting themselves open up just enough to be seen and see someone else but it’s just a fraction of what is really there.
For a long time I was in a pattern of hiding.
And for a long time I was scared of admitting that I saw people hide in plain site too. Sometimes when I would risk speaking up about what I noticed the conversations would go something like this;
Me: Are you ok? (They don’t look ok but I’ll just check.)
Friend: Yeah. Fine.
Me: Um. Ok. You sure? (They seem angry. Not fine at all. But I’m scared of what may happen if I “push”.)
Friend: Yeah. I’M FINE.
Me: Ok. (Yikes, I feel scared. They sound angry. I better back off. I’m not going there again.)
People that hide can sometimes get angry when you “find” them. They are scared to be seen. Scared to be “caught” in a really uncomfortable emotion without a guarantee of what will happen if it comes out in the open. Scared because being honest hasn’t worked out for them in the past. Scared because they feel powerless. Scared because it’s painful to feel anything other than happy for too long. Scared because…fill in the blank.
When this conversation goes well it can look something like this;
Me: You seem bothered.
Friend: Yeah. I am.
Me: What’s bothering you?
Friend: It seemed like you were making a joke out of something I feel is very important. I think I feel hurt and angry that you did that. I was vulnerable and it felt like you trampled me.
Me: Thanks for telling me that. Ya know I didn’t intend to hurt you. But now that you point it out, you are right. I’m not sure why I said those things but that’s exactly what happened. I made fun of something important to you. I need to check-myself about why I did that. I’m sure I’ve done that before with you…and others. I’m sorry.
Friend: Thank you. Gosh that was tough for me to admit. I was hopeful that we could just ignore it and move on. I forgive you.
Me: Thanks for your courage. It was tough but I need your honesty…it helps me grow…and I want to have a good relationship with you.
Friend: Yeah. Me too.
Emotional honesty requires courage. Courage to admit what’s really going on. Courage to admit unawareness. Courage to apologize. Courage to fight for what’s best.
To lead is to be emotionally courageous.
It takes courage to say what you see to an angry/bothered/hurting person. At least for me, I have to work at being brave, honest, and direct when people seem angry/hurt/bothered because I’m tempted to withdraw and be scared too.
Entering into discomfort is required for any leader that’s going to make a meaningful impact in the people they serve.
For you courageous leaders out there that regularly come out of hiding and brave the vulnerability of being seen and seeing others…keep at it! We cannot force people to uncover their eyes but we can be willing to embrace them with a loving gaze and open arms when they do. Because we need that ourselves.