Have you heard the story of the Velveteen Rabbit? It’s about a beautiful child’s toy who becomes “real” once he is loved and played with so much that his outsides are shabby and worn. Being loved well meant being part of a messy life with the little boy who loved him, and that took it’s toll on his outer image. But being loved well made him happy, gave him purpose, made him real.
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I think people are this way. We have to let the shine be rubbed off of us to be real. We have to go through messy life with people who love us. We have to let ourselves be loved and we have to love people back. Our perfect image may take a beating, but the rewards of becoming real outlast what we lose along the way.