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.


Crying is Cool

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I CRY ALL THE TIME. I tweeted the other day that I’m not emotionally prepared for Christmas and I was not joking. There’s something about the holiday season that makes me so sensitive to just how beautiful everything is.

On my house show tour, one of the first questions I’d ask to break the ice during a show was “how many people here do you think have cried today?” Usually we’d get pretty low guesses like 2 or 3. I’d say “you don’t have to say why but if you cried today would you just raise your hand?” and we’d usually get 7-10 hands up.

We all cry! We cry all the time! It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Sure, you look really ugly when you do it but so does everyone. No one looks attractive when they cry.

Shame tells us to hide our emotions but there are trustworthy people in your life you can share your most vulnerable moments with. You don’t have to choke back those tears all the time. There are moments you can let them fall freely!

I used to feel so weird about crying. I hated it. There’s a whole track on my album, Don’t Panic, all about why I hate crying. But I’ve completely changed.

Crying is not just ok. Crying is cool.

I love finding out what makes people cry. One time at a house show a woman told me she cries every time she watches The Price is Right. Whenever the announcer calls someone down from the audience to play, she cries because she’s so happy for them. Isn’t that so sweet? I wish I cried about cool stuff like that. I mostly just cry listening to podcasts.

The Trap of Shame


Brene Brown defines shame as "the fear of disconnection.” It’s the fear that asks “is there something about me that if other people know it or see it I won’t be worthy of connection?”

I don’t know if the church talks enough about the power of shame to ruin our relationship with Christ.

Sin separates us from God but shame traps us in hiding.

After Adam and Eve ate the fruit they realized they made a horrible mistake. First they tried to hide themselves from each other by making some clothes. Then they tried to hide from God. Which was…a dumb move. How can you hide from God? But when you’re in a shame panic you’re not thinking.

Here’s the real question: WHY would they try to hide from God? Answer: Because they were afraid of how He would react. That’s why we hide anything from anyone. We don’t want to see them flip out, get angry, break down crying, or start uncontrollably anger vomiting (people do that, right?).

Eventually they come out of hiding and face up to God. They spill the beans on their sin, waiting and wincing at what might come next. He had EVERY RIGHT to turn His back, reject, destroy them, and start over. But the first words out of God were words of love.

“I’m going to fix this.”


The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
    cursed are you above all livestock
    and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
    and dust you shall eat
    all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”


Genesis 3:15 is known as the protoevangelium, the first gospel. It’s the first time Jesus is mentioned in the Bible. God is saying “sin has separated man from me but through a descendant of Eve I will bring reconciliation.”

That’s how God responds.

It makes the hiding seem like a waste of time, right? They were just putting off an encunter with God’s love and grace.

Shame traps us in hiding.

We think there’s something about us that if it were to ever come out, it would be impossible for Jesus to love us. So we hide. And yeah, the thing we're hiding might be terrible and wrong and destructive to our life, but how is hiding going to fix it? It’s not a real solution. We're just putting off the consequences until later. We're making it a problem for Future Us to deal with.

You can’t deal with a problem unless you admit the problem exists. You can’t hear “I’m going to fix this” until you come out of hiding and admit that something’s broken.

I don’t have to be afraid of God’s reaction. There’s nothing in my life that would ever make me unlovable to Him. I can’t surprise Him. He won’t change His mind about me. He said He loves me, He’ll forgive me, He’ll heal me, and He’ll give me new life. There’s nothing I can do that would make Him take it back.

And that’s truly wild. Because I HORRIBLE on my own. He has every right to abandon me. But His grace is more than enough. I don’t deserve it. He just offers it because of who He is.

So why hide? What good is that doing? Step out into the light. Open up.

This is true about Christ and it’s also who He designed the church to be. The church is supposed to represent Christ on Earth. You want to see how Jesus responds to your brokenness and shame? Look to the church. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Find someone who represents Christ that you trust and take that first brave step into the light.

There’s nothing you can bring to the light that is too big and can’t be covered by God’s grace.