Wade Bearden

The Problem of Being Likable


My friend Wade Bearden tweeted earlier today a quote from the Sherlock Holmes' story, A Study in Scarlet, commenting that these lines are “a great description of social median.”


“What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence…The question is, what can you make people believe that you have done.”


ABSOLUTELY! And it doesn’t seem to matter who you are but more who you can convince others you are.

In a commencement speech from 2011, Jonathan Franzen spoke the graduating class of Kenyon College about the problem of being likable:


“If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they’ve fallen for your shtick. Those people exist to make you feel good about yourself, but how good can your feeling be when it’s provided by people you don’t respect?”


It reminds me of the Groucho Marx quote: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

We think we want people to only know the filtered, curated, likable version of ourselves that we present to the world, but it can never satisfy. Compliments become meaningless. They say “you’re such a kind person” and all you can think is “yeah, that’s because you don’t actually know me.”

The only relationships that will truly defeat our culture’s loneliness epidemic, are ones where we can be fully known and still fully loved.

Like Tim Keller says in The Meaning of Marriage:


To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.


42,951 Words Remaining


My goal is to finish the first draft of my book by January 31. I’ve been taking notes and writing little thoughts for a long time now but I thought I needed to finally commit to this thing and jump right in.

Wade Bearden told me the first draft of his book, Failing Faith,  was around 45,000 words, so I decided to use that as the target for mine.

I officially started tonight. The goal was to write 2,000 words before going to bed. I’m at 2,049. I’ve got 42,951 to go. 

Being an Anchor | a lesson from FAILING FAITH


What am I supposed to do for someone I care about when they’re suffering?

How do I help a friend after a tragedy?

I know they’re hurting but I don’t know what to do for them.

How do I make them better?

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when someone we love reaches out to us in a vulnerable moment. There’s pain or loss in their lives and they need someone to be there for them and you desperately want to fill that role but you have no idea how.

We feel like we need to be the hero. We need to snap them out of it. There’s a perfect piece of advice around here somewhere, and I need to be the one to deliver it before it’s too late.

I just finished Wade Bearden’s new book Failing Faith. It’s incredible and I think it should become essential reading for Christians, especially because of the insight into this very topic.

Throughout the book Wade walks us through what it was like watching his father’s battle with cancer. It’s beautifully written and so incredibly honest about such a heartbreaking time in his life.

There are tears. There’s anger. There’s loss. There’s doubt.

He offers a window into what’s it like in those moments for those of us on the outside who feel at a loss for how to help. In one chapter he describes how his wife, Priscilla, was there to support him.


Once, after I heard some especially bad news about my father, Priscilla leaned her head against my shoulder and quietly whispered that she loved me. Her statement felt like warm honey to my soul. This wasn’t the first or last time she did it either. Sure, sometimes she’d offer advice, but most of the time she just walked alongside me. She became a symbol to the new life that I longed for. The fresh experience of all-surrounding joy.


This is a pattern you start to notice throughout the book. There were moments that were the most meaningful during this time, and very few of them revolved around advic. There’s nothing in here about a friend or family member saying just the right thing at the right time and changing everything.

Wade states the lesson plainly at one point:


When someone is in pain—when they’ve experienced a miscarriage, lost a loved one, or saw their future fall apart— presence is always better than philosophy. Write that down and make sure to look at it often. When someone is in pain, don’t explain to them how God is in control. Just be the anchor they need to make it through the hurricane.


This should be a relief to us, the friends and family. We don't have to shy away from hospital visits. We don't have to fear what might happen if we ask how things are going. Our list of responsibilities is a lot more manageable. We don’t have to find the perfect words. They probably don’t exist. We’re not there to fix anyone. We just have to be there. They might go through some dark and devastating times, and our job is the anchor.

I’m here.

I’m right here.

I’m still here.

We can do that. We can handle that.

Read Failing Faith for yourself. I'm telling you, it's an amazing book. I’m not just saying that because Wade is a close personal friend and I’m even thanked in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. It’s no big deal. Why even bring it up?