Column: Externals

Externals—we all care about them. Some even obsess over them.

“Am I wearing what’s ‘in’? Does my hair look OK? Do my friends think I’m funny? Do my professors think I’m responsible?”

Each of us tends to seek reassurance of his or her worth by using externals. But when we stop and consider how superficial externals are, we are faced with a sobering reality: we are very good at putting up fronts.

I would be lying if I said I have never succumbed to this. I’ve done my fair share of dressing to impress and putting on masks for the approval of others. And although wanting to present ourselves nicely is not wrong, we have a problem when everyone thinks we have it all together externally at the expense of an ugly heart.

You don’t have to pretend that you always have your life together. In the competitive collegiate world of sports, academics, internships and jobs, we sometimes feel like we have to be strong and immovable, or someone will push us down further.

But the truth is, we’re afraid of vulnerability. We’ve been taught to fix our own problems and to stand up for ourselves. We’ve been told that life is hard, so we make ourselves harder. “Tough as nails” the saying goes, and that’s what we try to live out.

There is nothing wrong with being a strong, independent person, but when we let our determination to save ourselves keep us from going to our one true Savior, we’ve started going backward.

Maybe you don’t like opening up to people; you want to appear like you have it all together. That’s OK within reason. You are not required to share your fears and troubles with every passing stranger, or even every friend.

But where do you take all the things that trouble you? Where do you take the cruel comment you heard behind your back? The frustrations with your family? The bills you can’t pay?

So often we spend days, weeks, months, even years, carrying around our burdens, hidden behind our ironed clothes and A+ grades. We are so stuck in the mindset of being strong that sometimes we forget about the One who has already been strong for us. Will you go to Him? Will you break down the walls you so carefully built up and adorned?

I dare you. Be vulnerable. Especially with your Savior, Jesus Christ.