different kinds of broken

I've talked about brokenness around here a lot. As a recovering perfectionist, I find it helpful to use this space to remind myself that it's okay to not be perfect, it's okay to be broken, and to encourage others to be honest and open about their brokenness. But sometimes my brokenness still gets the better of me.

A few months back, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who was going through a very difficult time in his life. Like I often have, he was struggling a lot with accepting his brokenness. I did what I could to offer and encouragement and support. We come from very different backgrounds, so the brokenness he was struggling with looked vastly different than mine.

I told him that he probably feels like he's been broken for so long he doesn't even know how to be whole anymore. He said that was exactly it. And I knew exactly how he felt, because I'd written the same thing in my journal just a few days before.


At the end of that same week, I was hit with a wave of depression, complete lack of motivation, and an overwhelming awareness of my brokenness.

I cried so much that weekend I question whether the number of tears I shed was healthy. I felt completely and utterly broken, like my head and my heart were a 1000-piece puzzle for which I didn't have the picture. I had no idea where to even begin. All I saw was a pile of pieces that were apparently supposed to make up a whole person, but I didn't know what that person was supposed to look like anymore or how to begin finding her.

I didn't say a word to anyone that weekend about how broken I felt. I shut the world out, binge-watching Law & Order: SVU  on Netflix and eating way too much junk food.

I'm a huge proponent of community, particularly in times of brokenness. Those are the times when we need our community to gather around us the most — to remind us that it's okay, to remind us that brokenness doesn't negate our worth. And yet, I completely isolated myself from any and all community.


I'm pretty good at pretending like everything's fine. I've had a lot of practice at it over the years and there are very few people in my life that can tell how much pain is often underneath a "Fine." And part of the reason I often pretend like everything is fine is because I feel like I shouldn't be as broken as I am.

When I think of broken people in the Bible, I think of people with horrible pasts — murderers, adulterers, thieves. So where does a girl like me fit in to that crowd?

From the outside looking in, I have no reason to be broken.

My parents are still together and never had any marital issues. Aside from general sibling bickering, I get along quite well with my three siblings. I've never been abused — physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually. I've never been raped. I've never suffered from alcohol or drug addiction. Sure, I dated a couple of guys who later dumped me in kind of jerky ways, but everyone experiences heartbreak.

I had a good family, childhood, and group of friends who'd always surrounded me, a generally good life, so I often don't feel like I have a justifiable reason to be as broken as I am.


Though I know it's not intended this way, often when I talk to people who come from significantly broken pasts — dysfunctional families, abusive homes, rape or assault, drug or alcohol addiction, whatever it may be — it seems like they think because I haven't experienced what they've experienced, because I came from the good background I came from, that their brokenness is better than my brokenness.

It often feels like they're saying, "Your brokenness isn't really brokenness because it's not like my brokenness."

So I hide my brokenness. I pretend like it doesn't exist because, after all, I came from a good family so my brokenness must not really be a big deal. I should've figured out a way to deal with the issues that I struggled with years ago. I should be mostly happy, mostly whole. Maybe a few pieces of my puzzle can be out of place, but certainly not the whole thing. I'm told I should have it all together.

I'm told I haven't experienced enough pain to be so broken.

At least that's what it feels like.

It's one thing to realize you're broken and admit that to yourself. It's another thing to admit you're broken to someone else. It's an entirely different thing to tell someone you're broken and be told your brokenness doesn't matter because it isn't "real" brokenness.


I don't know your brokenness. I will never know the brokenness that comes from a broken home, a dysfunctional family, years of abuse, the after-affects of rape, or the results of drug addiction of alcohol abuse.

But I do know brokenness.

I know the brokenness that comes from feeling like you have to be perfect and knowing you'll always fail. I know the brokenness that comes from never knowing if people love you because of who you are or what you do for them. I know the brokenness that comes from endlessly trying for years and never measuring up, never feeling good enough or smart enough or skinny or enough or pretty enough. I know the brokenness that comes from feeling like you're too much and not enough, all at the same time.

I may not know your brokenness, but I know my brokenness. Your brokenness is not better than my brokenness and my brokenness is not better than yours. We're all just a different kind of broken. Where you're broken I may be whole and where you're whole, I may be broken. So rather than comparing our broken parts, let's help make each other whole.