• Helen Dillon-Cottee

The thing about cracks...


The first 'reform' journey I went on was in my faith. I had hit a point where there seemed so many 'cracks' in the faith of my youth that I couldn't see how to continue with it, but neither could I envision a life without the worldview I had held my whole life.


I thought I was losing my mind, or my faith, or falling into a midlife crisis. The one thing I had been completely certain of, became the area of my life where I was most struggling to hold it together. So much of my world was connected to the church including my family, my friendships, my area of influence and even my job, that I couldn’t let the cracks show.


So my faith, and everything else that was connected to church, was held together by sticky tape and glue. The cracks, or course, didn’t go away. They just got wider. They just needed more papering over.


You can live a cracked life; I did for years. You can stick and cover and patch and ignore cracks for a good long while. Some people do it for a lifetime. You can stay in a cracked faith or a cracked marriage or a cracked understanding of yourself. You can accept living in a cracked world that treats you in a specific way because of you bank balance or your skin colour or the fact that you were born to love people the same gender as you.


And we do accept it, because we are taught that a cracked, broken version is better than nothing. For women in particular, we are taught to be eternally grateful for anything we have, and to not expect anything better than broken for ourselves.


There is a form of 'grateful' that women have been taught their whole lives which is not beautiful, but toxic. It is the type of 'grateful' that keeps us in our place - we stay grateful for anything, for scraps from the table. The opposite of this toxic form of 'grateful' is not ungrateful, it is hungry. And women have been taught for generations to ignore our hunger for more. If we are hungry, we are less feminine – whether that hunger is in our bodies or souls or emotions or work. When we suppress our hunger for more to play the game of being a tiny, grateful woman; we check the box of femininity.


This form of gratitude doesn't work, it needs to be re-formed. And for men, the major reform needed is around ‘successful’.


Where women were taught to accept and expect less, men were taught to always strive for more. If a man accepts less, he is less of a man. The most masculine men are the once who refuse to settle and take up more and more space and resource in the pursuit of being the one with most. For men, hunger is rewarded.


Neither of us can show the cracks – because it makes us less grateful if we are women, and less successful if we are men.


It’s ridiculous because the cracks are there - in our workplaces and marriages and faith systems and governments. And no amount of tape or glue or pretense will heal these fissures. So the first step to wholeness is to have the courage to accept there are cracks - to ourselves and to those around us.


Every person who has hired a coach or a therapist has confessed to the cracks. Everyone who has enrolled in a recovery programme has thrown up their hands to the fissures in the earth under their feet – anyone who has ever been on a journey of reform has first had to say ‘This perfect life is not so perfect. There are cracks here and they are not going to go away on their own’.


And so I faced up to the cracks in my faith. I stopped papering over them with niceties.


And those cracks that were once terrifying became the very thing that saved me. As the famous quote says “We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.”


Wherever there is light, there is hope. And this broken, hidden, papered-over faith, held together with string and tape cracked apart; and in its place I found light and hope.


Then years later I saw the cracks appearing in my marriage, I remembered that hunger for something more than pretense, and I let the cracks show. Then, hope and light followed. The same has been true of every client who ever had the courage to let the cracks shows instead of pretending they weren't there.


Cracks, then light, then hope.


The thing about cracks is that they have never been a sign of failure, that was just a lie we were taught to believe. Cracks have always been the way to see that an old form no longer works and that something new is wanting to erupt into the world.





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