Being Mary Jane is a series that airs on BET about a popular news anchor, portrayed by Gabrielle Union, as she juggles her day to day life behind the scenes. Mary Jane Paul is strong, successful and beautiful but has her share of problems. She was raised in an affluent black family, yet struggles with supporting her loved ones financially and emotionally while trying to keep her sanity and hope. Nearing 40, she’s still single and doesn’t have any children, but desperately desires a happily ever after of her own. A fictional character that many real women can identify with.
In the latest episode Mary Jane had to plan a funeral and eulogize her best sister-friend after she committed suicide. Lisa decided to end her life after a long battle with mental illness and depression. She betrayed MJ with her on again-off again love David and Mary Jane found out through overhearing a private conversation. This led to a series of events that ended with Lisa taking her life.
Yes. I know it sounds so soapy. But the moment of the eulogy transcended race, gender, demographic, status…you name it, because it told the truth about simply being human.
During the eulogy Mary Jane revealed that Lisa had been molested by her stepfather from the age of 9 to 16. This had bruised Lisa terribly and was the source of her pain and suffering her entire life. Though being a successful doctor herself, Lisa never found peace. MJ knew that behind the betrayal, her friend was hurting and what happened was just a symptom of much deeper issues. Hurting people hurt people.
In my opinion the most poignant part of the eulogy was this quote:
“…to stop being liars, to actually embrace the truth. Just make sure that you tell everyone that you love, that you will love them no matter how ugly their truth is…that you’ll still love them.”
Her entire speech was heart-wrenching, but this spoke to me the most – bravo to the writers of this show!
Mary Jane began her tribute by explaining that someone asked her the other day how she was doing and she replied fine, but she wasn’t. She continued to tell how we all do this and many of us are liars because of it. The truth is most of us are not in fact ‘fine’ but are secretly fighting something and pretending to be okay.
That is the ugly truth.
How many times do we see a coworker in the break room, smile and say good morning when we’ve cried in the car during our commute?
How many times have we gone to church and put on the ‘church face’ and greeted our brothers and sisters the same way?
When you do share your problems with a trusted confidant are you giving them the full raw, uncut account or the sugar-coated version?
What truths are we hiding from our loved ones?
Even more importantly – what truths are we hiding from ourselves?
How many masks do we wear to hide our deepest darkest pain?
Lisa’s pain was from being molested by a sick stepfather and her mother stayed with this monster anyway – choosing this man over her child. So many adults are just broken children that never recovered from childhood trauma. This situation is extreme yet sadly common. Though pain is not always brought on by something as obvious.
Life altering events such as abuse, death of a loved one, heartbreak, divorce, illness and accidents can cause such deep scars on a person’s psyche. Oftentimes, we overlook the more subtle issues that weave the same kind of pain over the course of our lives. Stalled dreams, dead end jobs, unfulfilled expectations, loneliness and all sorts of seemingly insignificant repeated disappointments can string together to create a mountain the size of one deeply painful experience.
If you’re the latter, like me, you think to yourself ‘My life is pretty good. I’m blessed. I haven’t had x y z happen. I have some problems, but who doesn’t? It could be worse. That’s life.’ And you put your big girl (or big boy) panties on and you get up to face the world another day. That’s what adulthood is all about, right? You have to be strong and keep going.
To a certain extent this is true. We have to keep living, loving and laughing through all that life throws at us. But we must find safe places to be vulnerable. To share our hurts. Yes, we all have heard the cliché that ‘it could be worse’ but that doesn’t make our pain and struggles any less valid. That’s like telling someone they can’t be happy because someone else has it better!
Each one of us has different capacities to manage hurt and disappointment. What problem may seem insignificant to you may be catastrophic to the next individual. What seems like the end of the world to you someone else may brush off with ease.
Fear of being judged for our truth keeps us from being real with one another. We don’t want to be rejected, have someone try to fix us or simply be told to ‘suck it up’. Sometimes we just want someone to acknowledge that they hear us, see us, and even if they don’t fully understand, that they love us and will be here for us anyway.
I’m not saying this is a license to go about living a wimpy life and never fighting through things. We’re only human and we all have limitations. Everyone needs someone to make it in this life. My Christian faith allows me to be fully accepted and vulnerable with an awesome and loving God and even he will send good people at the right time that we can trust and confide in as he leads. He made us to love one another and to bear each other’s burdens.
I believe it is in sharing our truth that makes us stronger. Because of the aforementioned obstacles, many times we choose to just tuck those feelings away because we don’t even want to be honest with ourselves. Sometimes we think if we ignore the problem it will go away which is the furthest from the truth. If anything, it just digs a deeper hole within ourselves and seeps into every area of our lives feeding some sort of dysfunction such as depression, anxiety and/or some unhealthy coping mechanism.
Before we can be vulnerable with anyone else we have to be willing to look in the mirror and take off the mask that is staring back at us. We must be willing to face the ugliest parts of ourselves to acknowledge that:
This is me.
This is my truth.
I accept myself.
I love myself.
I still matter.
And most importantly – God loves me no matter how ugly my truth is.