“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.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
That last line gets me every time. Many of us have had that special stuffed animal or toy that we loved and were very real to us. Sometimes, grown-ups didn’t quite get it. My daughter made her teddy bear real. When she had accidentally left it at church one day, we tried to substitute it with another bear but it didn’t work. She was about 16 months old and she angrily threw the not-real bear on the floor and refused to look at it. She cried all through the night asking for her Teddy. Luckily, we got it back to her a few days later.
Like the velveteen rabbit, we become real in the light of God’s love. In the light of the love we give back, bit by bit we become more real. People don’t often see the gradual transformation within us and sometimes when they see just a glimmer, they don’t understand.
What does it mean for us who are already living, breathing creatures to become real? Aren’t we real when we are born? We are alive certainly. We are loved hopefully. The ones who love us…our parents or carers may feel they love us but they are yet to know us. We are yet to know ourselves.
We grow. We develop interests. We love. We hurt. We dream. We put dreams aside and pick up new dreams. Sometimes we pursue things that are not meant for us. These may be other people’s dreams. We often aspire to become someone we are not meant to be. We travel on in life, leaving ourselves behind. When we do, we are not really ourselves. We are not being ourselves. We are not ‘real’. C. G. Jung said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” Sadly, we often travel for so far and so long in the wrong direction that we don’t even know who we are or how to begin to find out but like the Skin Horse said, “It doesn’t happen all at once. It takes a long time.” We have God’s light to illuminate our true selves so that we can begin to see who we really are. If we then allow ourselves to respond to God’s love and be still with Him, we will find glimmers of our true selves beginning to be known to us. We will become self-aware. Antoine de Saint-Exupery (author of The Little Prince) said, “What is true is invisible to the eye. It is only with the heart that one can see clearly.”
However, it isn’t enough merely to know ourselves. We need to become ourselves as well. We need to be authentic. Other words for authentic are: real, genuine, bona fide and true. It means to be rooted in our values and our truths and that our lives reflect this. We actively take part in being our true selves. We take action. If we are artists, we create what is within us, not what is dictated to us. When we speak to people, we are always honest and truthful. It also means being transparent so that others SEE us. Then, when someone says, “I love you”, you can have the confidence knowing they truly love who you really are. It is sad when someone forms a long term relationship with someone they think loves them only to find out they weren’t really known by them. When you are real, life becomes more joyful. There is no shame, no guilt, no judgementalism. You feel more comfortable in your own skin. Your relationships are truer. You feel love and give love more freely. You become.