Revealing the Mess Inside: The Value of Authenticity in Recovery

Posted by Genevieve St. Martin, Staff Writer Jul 15, 2021 2:25:33 PM

Recovery isn’t just the process of breaking an addiction or quitting a toxic habit; the core of real recovery is deep, inner healing. And we all need that, don’t we? Whether we are housed or unhoused, addicted or not. If our hearts ache with the grief of failed expectations, or we battle constantly with a habit or habits we wish to break, or we’re angry with God for interweaving our stories with pain and suffering, we need the ministry of recovery.


But how do we receive it? Particularly, how do we receive healing for our deepest wounds when we do not even fully understand them?


If we’re honest, a lot of the time we’re hiding those wounds pretty deeply. We’re accustomed to putting on a polished exterior for the world to see. After all, why bring up the ugly inner workings of our hearts in casual conversation? Why reveal what’s really going on inside? Isn’t it better to just be the best person we can be and hope the wounds inside slowly grow less sore?


Let’s dive into that for a minute.


Presenting your “best” self

Deep at the core of humanity’s existence is a desire for meaning. Once basic needs are met (water, food, shelter) a natural desire rises to do something meaningful. God has put it in us to serve one another, to create things that outlast ourselves, to build legacies, and to rise above the fulfillment of day-to-day needs. It is in us to strive for greatness and godliness. This is part of God’s image in us.


Is it true, then, that our highest calling is to deny what is dark and sore and confusing inside of us, in order to serve others or be the best Christians we can be?


No, this cannot be true considering the way in which the Lord speaks of the human heart throughout Scripture.

House Interior Mess

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)


Springs of life

It is a fallacy that we can perform externally in a way that is contrary to the workings of our hearts. We can put on behaviors or paste a smile on our face, but we cannot effectively minister to one another or thrive as God intended, when our hidden heart is troubled. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)

Consider the words of Paul Tripp in his book New Morning Mercies.

“Yet many, many believers live their lives with a huge separation between their public church personas and the details of their private existence. We are skilled at brief, nonpersonal conversations about the weather, sports, and politics. We are learned at giving either nonanswers or spiritually platiduinous answers to people’s questions. We live in long-term networks of terminally casual relationships. No one really knows us beneath the well-crafted public display, and because they don’t know us, they cannot minister to us, because no one can minister to that which he does not know.”

“No one really knows us beneath the well-crafted public display, and because they don’t know us, they cannot minister to us, because no one can minister to that which he does not know.” Paul Tripp (click to tweet) 

No one can minister to that which he does not know. If we wish to heal from the inside out, we must risk revealing the “mess” inside.

Small Group SharingLiving (and speaking) authentically

When our hearts are aching and something inside isn’t right, the best thing we can do is reach out, reveal the truth inside, and let others speak into our lives. God created people to ease each other’s burdens and grow together. This does not happen when we hide.


But revealing our authentic selves can feel risky and frightening. What if we are rejected, mocked, slandered?


Dr. Glenn Doyle said in a tweet this week, “You shouldn’t have been put in the position of having to swallow your authenticity for the sake of preserving a relationship. If a relationship requires us to sacrifice or hide our true selves, who’s really IN that relationship, anyway?”


Cultivating relationships in which it is safe to be authentic is key. When we can take our complex, tangled web of thoughts, patterns and behaviors to somebody safe, and they remain close to us and offer love and compassion in the thick of our messiness, healing can begin.

Women holding hands and prayingIn that relationship, when we hear ourselves speak and when we see our words reflected in the expressions and responses of our confidant, the web starts to untangle. We find that we are not so enigmatic, we are not so unusual, we are not so irrevocably broken as perhaps we thought.


Indeed, hope is kindled that we might put to rights what has felt so wrong inside of us.


In a safe, authentic relationship, we can: 

  • Name emotions that have controlled us
  • Take responsibility for what is ours
  • Stop taking responsibility for what is not ours
  • Uncover motivations and desires 
  • Grieve what has been lost 
  • Separate ourselves from others and create healthy boundaries 
  • Establish new goals and set realistic expectations 
  • Learn to love and care for ourselves


The outcome, in a lot of ways, can be paralleled to chains being removed. Freedom. When we don’t know why we keep doing something that keeps hurting us, we feel enslaved to some dark mystery. Contrast that with having the confidence to make healthy choices, based on a clear understanding of ourselves and our tendencies.


 “Only when I stopped and looked, and realized what I had become, was I able to get the freedom that I had been searching for since I was twelve years old.” Mike Sholtz, UGM Recovery Program Supervisor


At Union Gospel Mission, we aim to create a safe, healing environment that is a benefit to all. Guests, residents, staff and leadership all participate in the cultivation of a safe community and authentic relationship-building.

Two men hugging-1Our Recovery programs may be the most focused place where intentional healing of inner wounds is taking place, but the truth is that we are all on the road to recovery. Receiving God’s unconditional love for us looks like being honest with ourselves about how He made us, and offering the same love and honesty to all who come to us.


“Every one of us is on the road to recovery in some area of our lives if we are truly seeking Christ as the way, the truth and the life. We applaud those who are actively choosing to do the work of evaluating their lives and pursuing this path of love offered through the ministry of the Union Gospel Mission…  UGM is a longstanding, reputable ministry whose leaders recognize that the Gospel is the answer to our broken lives and work diligently toward that end. It is a joy to encourage seekers of wholeness on the road to recovery, knowing that they are being supported in every possible way by trained professionals in an atmosphere of grace.” – Jim and Rosella Reggin, UGM Impact Partners



You can learn more about God's love and how it impacts life at the Mission in our free e-book, below. 


Download our free e-book, God Loves the Poor. >>


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