Have you ever been ashamed to admit something? I mean, truly embarrassed to say it. Maybe you believed you could do it. Then… the chance came and you just couldn’t.
I’ve been there too.
I can still feel that tightness in my throat. I can still feel the tension in my shoulders. I can still hear my inner voice whispering,
“Shut your damn mouth.”
“It’s not worth it.”
“It will change how they view you forever.”
You’ve felt all of this, right? Or, at least, some version of it. I felt that way about THIS topic for so many years.
You know what? Honesty matters. Being genuine matters. So, in the spirit of being genuine…
In the spirit of courage…
I’m going to tell you a story that changed everything.
I grew up in a small town. My father worked a blue-collar job and my mom stayed at home. Since my father’s workplace was close, I would stop by from time to time. His work was laborious. He spent many hours toiling away. I remember how rough his hands looked. Sometimes, he would guide my hand along the boards. I remember the calluses and cracks grating the top of my soft little hand.
He kept working to provide for our family for many years. I always loved and appreciated him for that. As time passed though, I found myself spending more time away from home.
I loved my home but there was a higher calling for my life.
My higher calling was people.
It was always them. I guess I saw them for who they were. Sure, they are capable of awful things. But there is so much beauty in them. And they, like any person, need grace and love.
As the years went by, I started teaching. I never received my doctorate but I studied tirelessly. I knew there was wisdom I had that others needed.
More than that, I wanted them to truly know love.
Many people, whom I met, were suffering a lot. Some were very sick and couldn’t get proper medical care. Others were treated like outcasts. I even saw children shamed, disrespected, and hurt.
There was so much pain all around me.
I would look into their eyes and see their pain. It was a lost look as if they were far away. My heart grieved for them. I wanted them to know the hope that I knew. And, it drove me to give everything.
But some people hated me for that.
There was a group of people who despised me. It seemed like we kept ending up in the same circles too. They relentlessly attacked me. They tried to make me feel incompetent, stupid, and ashamed. They questioned everything I said, attempting to prove me wrong.
Every time I talked, they found some reason why I sucked. Eventually, they noticed my love for those around me. So, they’d play on that compassion and start attacking my friends.
This always broke my heart.
I was angry.
It felt so wrong, so unjust.
But somehow I always kept going back to this thought… If I am going to show love, I am going to show that love to them too. I just have to love them where they are and try to help them see. I wish I could say they changed their minds about me.
As my career flourished, I became more well-known. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to make that happen. It just naturally did. It got pretty wild.
People would come up to me while I was on walks, with friends, and just living my life. There were times when it got overwhelming.
Some days you’re just tired, right?
When I reached my early 30’s, I found an amazing friend group. I’ll admit, they were a little rough around the edges. They came from different backgrounds. Some did well for themselves and others were just getting by.
One of my friends definitely had his share of anger problems. He was never afraid to speak his mind. The other worked for the government. Naturally, most people didn’t like the government.
(You’ve been there, especially as an entrepreneur, right?)
I’m sure you can imagine what that was like for him. I love that group though.
When I think back, I remember the great times we had. There was, and is, something so special about them. I’ll never forget that bond we had. But this part of the story has a sad ending.
It started with a meal…
Like we often did, we were enjoying some delicious food and a few drinks. There were laughs. Everyone was in good spirits. As the night went on, our conversations got deeper.
We got on the topic of betrayal. That’s a tough one.
When you form a strong bond with someone, it’s hard to imagine they’d betray you.
The thought hurts. It feels lonely. It’s like being locked in a dark room alone and knowing that no one is coming for you. I’m sure you’ve experienced it in some form of business or life.
I have too.
I knew for a long time that someone in my group was being false. But the right time hadn’t presented itself. At this moment though, I knew it was finally time. It was a bold thing to do but time was running out.
So, I did it.
I looked at them one by one. They stared back, waiting for me to speak. The room got very quiet.
After some time, I gently said… I know that one of you will betray me.
They were stunned, of course. I know some thought I was joking. Some were offended. Others were defensive. One by one, they started blurting out, “you can’t seriously mean ME, right?”
Finally, the last one spoke.
“Is it me?”
Just then, it felt like all the air left my body. Tears welled up in my eyes. I looked at him. He stared back at me.
Quietly, so no one else heard, I said,
You’re the one…
He said nothing. He just looked at me with intensity and shame. We held our gaze for a few moments. Then we carried on with the night - allowing that topic to drift away.
…until the moment that changed it all.
The story that you just read… is not my story. It’s a small part of a much larger one. It is the story of a carpenter who lived thousands of years ago.
He was born in the lowliest of conditions.
He rose to prominence with a message of hope, love, and salvation.
He was murdered by religious leaders.
Ultimately, he rose again and forgave even those who tortured him to death.
When I first got into the business world, and especially into entrepreneurship, nothing scared me more than losing opportunities. After all, lost opportunities equated to lost revenue.
Along the way, I feared losing opportunities so much that I began denying my faith. I hid it away because I was scared that it would cost me. I was afraid it would create awkward conversations and assumptions from those who saw the world differently.
More than that? I was ashamed.
I was ashamed of being associated with the horrible examples that I’ve seen in evangelicalism. I was ashamed of saying that I went to church and being viewed as some anti-scientific hack. I was ashamed of leading people to believe that my faith resulted in me judging people or thinking less of them.
All of these ideas led to my betrayal of things I held dear. What’s more? I betrayed others by being dishonest about myself.
I betrayed the true image of Christ by staying silent as loud, hateful voices reigned supreme in modern Christendom.
Near the beginning of 2022, I finally decided to truly be open about my faith.
It didn’t mean I preached at people or that my life was perfect.
I didn’t stop swearing, drinking, being friends with people of different or no belief, or any of the other nonsensical assumptions.
I simply decided to own my entire identity. I decided to honor Christ.
And, I can honestly say that I’ve never been happier. Is everything suddenly perfect? Of course not. But my work, my health, and my life have gotten better.
Through living transparently, I have unlocked a greater ability to grow and learn. Why? I don’t feel out of sync anymore. I don’t feel like I’m living a lie. In fact, the spiritual and mental freedom led to my best year ever.
Incredible strides were made in my marriage. I became the father I wanted to be for my children. Opportunities have been almost constant. My income is higher than ever.
And, my mindset is healthy again.
I’m not here to preach to anyone. I believe you’re more than capable of making the best decision for yourself.
What I will leave you with is this:
- It is never shameful to be who you are.
- It is never embarrassing to believe what you do.
- Life is your own journey
- You deserve to live with freedom, love, and hope. Especially as an entrepreneur, there are enough challenges as it is. It’s not worth adding another battle with yourself.
- Be uniquely you.
- Follow your own path.
I promise that, if you do this, you’ll discover the best opportunities for you. And, that’s what you’re looking for… right?
Things that are meant for you.
Opportunities that are handcrafted for your skillset.
Places where you feel like you belong.
It’s not a fairytale to have that. But you have to have the courage to obtain it. You have to be genuine and true to yourself.
So, go forth in strength.
Walk with boldness.
And know this…
The best is yet to come.
Nick Herrera | CMO of Hello Seven| LinkedIn