The importance of the ugly moments

By James Willoughby

I am cheap.

I prefer to use the term ‘fiscally responsible,’ because it makes my cheapness sound virtuous. But the fact is that I don’t like wasting my hard-earned money.

My thriftiness has driven me to make some pretty questionable decisions in life. I often test the bounds of food expiration dates. I gamble on clothing purchases through on-line clearance shopping. And I go to the lowest priced hair cutter in town.

That last decision is perhaps the riskiest, because the results of my questionable judgment are then visible for all to see. Because I don’t want to be sued, I won’t call the bargain salon out, but its name has the word “great” in it.

Using the word “great” in this company’s name is flagrant false advertising. Every haircut I get there is like playing Russian roulette. I may walk out of there with a pretty good haircut, maybe even verging on great.

But there’s a better chance that I’ll leave looking like I just cut my own hair. Most of the services I receive at this establishment are not what I’d call great. The big sign adorning the store front claiming greatness is at best misleading.

Look, I get it. Sometimes the truth is ugly. No one wants to get their hair done at Bargain Cuts or Mediocre Clips. They’re trying to create an image that looks great on the outside. And while it may have moments of greatness, there are many ugly moments as well.

Truth be told, most of us are probably guilty of the same thing. My social media profile pics don’t show me when I first roll out of bed in the morning looking like a vagrant with a bargain haircut. I don’t post pictures of me losing my temper with my kids. You won’t see an image of me and my wife (Jody) sitting on opposite ends of the couch, giving each other the cold shoulder.

But these scenes, and worse, are all part of my story. I’m learning lately just how valuable my story is – even the ugly parts – sometimes especially the ugly parts. Authenticity and transparency can be our greatest assets when we are seeking to help others.

Jody and I have a passion for helping hurting marriages because our own marriage has survived some serious pain. Since we’ve been on this journey of reconciliation, we’ve had several couples come to us in crisis, seeking some solace.

Neither of us is trained in counseling, but we’ve read enough that we can offer a few techniques to navigate hurt. I’ve learned that the most powerful thing I can do in those moments is to simply share some of our story. I pull back the “great” façade and reveal a little of the ugly.

Our stories can offer hope. Seeing someone else who’s been where we are and has come out the other side gives hope that we too can come out the other side. Sometimes we just need to hear that what we’re living through is normal, that Facebook isn’t reality and that we all experience ugly.

We all have a story. We’ve all overcome something, lived through some hardship. Someone in our lives right now is probably trying to overcome the same thing, living through the same hardship. That person needs to hear your story. They don’t need to see the “great” façade. They need to see your busted haircut.

By James Willoughby

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.