Emotional Nudists

by Sarah Markley

They were naked and unashamed.

Naked. Unashamed.

The two words don’t seem to go together. Our worst nightmares aren’t monsters or serial killers {or tornadoes or tsunamis if you are me} but they are the ones when we wake up in 11th grade American History with our bottom halves unclothed. Naked is the stuff of bad dreams for most of us.

I can’t remember the last time I felt good naked, or further, unashamed.

Our clothes cover unshaven legs, doughy middles after the holiday free-for-all, and the parts of us that all of us have but none of us show in a modest, civilized society.

After He created Adam, God created the woman and pronounced them all “good.” The writer of Genesis goes on to say that they were naked and unashamed.

And by doing so, God also created the first community. The first naked community.

Without a white dresses or a tuxedoes, God Himself married this couple during the dawn of humanity. And without a stitch of clothing. Nothing to hide any single thing. Naked.

This was the first community. The first “small group” if you will. The initial small town, community group, support group, congregation…

And they were naked.

We were created to live together with others, maybe not naked in they physical sense, but perhaps naked in emotion, in spirit and in mind.  This is not a treatise for nudist colonies or physical nakedness outside the realms that our society and religions prescribe, but a question about how we can live as we were created, naked and unashamed, but within the fallen world that we do.

What if we removed the emotional “clothes” that cover us, in safety of loving communities, and allowed the nakedness of how we were created to be to reign? In essence, what if we lived as emotional nudists?

What do we really have to hide? Sin? Hurt? Grief? Pain? Ugliness? These are all common human conditions, threaded and woven through our hearts as fabrics of life.

But, I say,

I will not

I cannot

feel that kind of hurt again. I pad my heart so carefully against injury.

So I put up walls that are even thicker than the normal emotional clothing I wear and I build up bricks of protection against that kind of ugly cry again. Never again, I say. Never.

But with all love comes some hurt. With all real emotion comes transparency and with living in an emotionally naked way comes vulnerability.

Maybe we can begin by removing the overcoats. Taking off the heavy winter boots. By setting the hats and gloves aside and making ourselves comfortable with community. We don’t have to “get naked” right away, but if we can begin by shedding just some of the emotional “clothing” and by peering over the high walls, we can begin to move forward.

We might be afforded certain freedoms then: the freedom to love big, to tell the truth without hiding, and to help one another live in the that close-to-the-surface, authentic way that is the truest form of living.

Do you live with a lot of extra emotional “clothing?” Do you have trouble being open with others, even in safe, loving community?

By Sarah Markley, who is actively trying to untie her winter boots.

30 Responses to “Emotional Nudists”

  1. Shae January 13, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    This puts a whole new spin on streaking and I love it! Birthday suits FTW! (emotionally of course… I’m not one for trying to get arrested for indecency :P )

    • Sarah January 13, 2012 at 8:18 am #

      emotional streaking!! i love it! What about emotional skinny dipping? have i gone too far? =)

      • Shae January 15, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

        Emotional skinny dipping, too far? NEVER! It’s sly :P keep coming back to this – thank you!

  2. JOSEPH CANTONE January 13, 2012 at 1:52 am #

    this is a model for married couples.

    • Sarah January 13, 2012 at 8:19 am #

      i agree. thank you joseph. so hard, though. i was thinking about that as i was writing this.

      • Lesley Glenn January 13, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

        It is the covenant relationship that God wants with his bride. naked and unashamed. it is a process that my husband and I have learned over the course of 4 years of healing from infidelity. We have nothing to hide anymore. Thanks Sarah, for always getting to the ROOT and exposing truth.

  3. Irish Triplets January 13, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    I felt totally naked when my affair was exposed. However, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I like being naked and not “covering up” my sins.

  4. Michelle Gates January 13, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    I relate all-too-well to this, Sarah… Thank you for encouraging me to shed these layers that are weighing me down, and begin breaking down the protective walls that are sheltering me from truly LIVING!

    • Sarah January 13, 2012 at 8:19 am #

      thank you michelle! i have lots of layers too. =)

  5. Jason January 13, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    Beautiful post.

    • Sarah January 13, 2012 at 8:20 am #

      thank you jason!!

  6. Christina {Chrissy} Berry January 13, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    I wear those extra layers of clothing with EVERYONE, even my husband. It’s hard for me to be open with people. Your post is so encouraging, though, Sarah. If we take off just one layer at a time, finding safety and comfort with each lost piece of clothing, maybe we can eventually get to the point of full-on nakedness. Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. Heather January 13, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    I loved this and I’m so thankful to have friends that I can be emotionally naked with…they don’t pass judgement, they love.

    • Sarah January 13, 2012 at 8:29 am #

      you are rich in friendship and your relationships are a rarity. wishing more of us could have friends like that. thank you heather!

  8. Tara January 13, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Eeeep I love this post! It’s hard to open up and “be naked” with people. I find it especially hard to do so in a church setting because it feels as though you’re being judged for your flaws. I think we should all “get naked” and be real. :) Thank you for posting this! Wonderful! Blessings to you! :)

    • Sarah January 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

      i agree tara: it is very hard. thank you for commenting!!

  9. Genevieve @ Turquoise Gates January 13, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    Yes, I wear thick clothes emotionally. I am always the girl skulking in the corner in the too-baggy sweatshirt, yoga pants and slippers. I long for the kind of freedom we read about in Genesis, but I’m unwilling to be that vulnerable. Ever.

  10. Sharon O January 13, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    This is really beautiful and wow.
    I was just writing last night about vulnerability and opening ourselves up and not hiding. Interesting that this writing is some of the same truths God was showing me last night.
    We can open up with caution a little bit at a time then slowly open up a bit more till we have shared our true selves and perhaps be loved more deeply than ever before because we ‘trusted’ and allowed others to ‘see’ us.

  11. veronicah rose January 13, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    This topic has been on my heart lately as well, actually I just wrote my last blog post about it. We’re so scared to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, yet it is when we stop being cautiose that we experience life to the fullest…both highs and lows.

  12. Amy @ messymiddle.wordpress.com January 13, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    I tend to be fairly open — but it does come at a cost :). I sometimes feel more exposed than most people in my organization because they “know” things about me as I’ve shared them. I do think we are slowly becoming more real and able to share the junk of life — but change comes slowly (and is very threading to some!).

  13. Angela January 13, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    I like the concept of removing our (emotional) clothing one piece at a time. It paints a clear picture and there’s wisdom in it.

    In my teenage years, I was too free with who I “stripped down” with. I was willing to bear my soul to people who seemed safe and interested. But some of them weren’t trustworthy.

    Now that I have more years and experience under my belt, two things are very clear to me: 1) I want to be transparent, honest and vulnerable with those in my tribe and 2) I am much more selective about who is in my tribe.

    Even real nudists only “let it all hang out” within their colony. That’s the way it should be…

  14. Chris January 13, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    This topic has been on my mind. I never thought of it as a clothing metaphor, and you’re really opened my eyes in a different way. I suppose I saw it more as a wall metaphor, and the thing with walls is that they are constructed and destroyed – clothes are put on and taken off. It seems so much healthier to look at the world that way. Thank you for this!

  15. mel January 13, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    thanks, sarah. i needed to read this today. i am working to tear down emotional barriers that all too often hold me back from those i love and others that i want to get to know better. dealing with a lot right now and i realize this goes along with some other issues i need to work on. thanks for bringing it my attention.

  16. Hilary January 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Thank you Sarah. I needed to read this, too. I wonder if we can help each other, too – unbutton the tough buttons and untangle our shoelaces together. I know I’ll need help taking off these layers, and letting my freer self out. But you’ve encouraged me to keep working at it. Thank you!

  17. Olivia January 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Yes! there is too much clothing on all of us, especially me! I love the language of this… the way the two are intertwined. Startling, really. And so truthful. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  18. Charity January 13, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Love it – ideas so creatively combined! I am extremely emotionally open and real, some people love it, and some people hate it and think I use it as a coverup for my “real” thoughts and emotions and some people tell me that my willingness to be tender and show vulnerability at times is a sign of weakness to be taken advantage of! Just goes to show how everyone views life from their own perspective, I guess! Personally, I know it’s a strength.

  19. Jennifer Upton January 14, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    I shed my clothes this last year. I made myself believe in years past that I had already done so but this was not reality. It was not until I truly began living with my heart wide open that the clothing began to fall piece by peace. This is the only way to transparency. I must admit I get hurt alot living this way but after living bundled up for so long I now know what freedom feels like. I love the feel of my skin and no longer am I ashamed. I am not ahamed to tell my journey of adultry even tho others read it in hiding. My uncovering prayerfully, will encourage them to uncover as well…..hiding beneath layers only keeps others doing the same and no one will ever feel their own skin. Thanks for your story!

  20. frogla January 15, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    sarah you have a lovely way of expressing what lies beneath. the emotional covering i carry is thick and i hide under it like a warm blanket although it doesn’t feel so soft @ times. i hurt am wounded so far deep that only god can see and only he will see. it’s too deep for me to uncover alone and in front of others. i feel safe with a few but even then they don’t know the depth of emotions i hide. i am not ashamed but am alone. i don’t know how to ask for help to let those i love see the depths the dark the sad places. that’s the ex-fundy/cult mind i still deal with. i am grateful for your prose your willingness to dig deep. you are a hero of mine. xo

  21. Charissa Steyn January 16, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    thank you for this beautiful post Sarah. you capture the essence of community so very well!! i absolutely love it!


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