By Touré Roberts
It seems like only a small number of people consider themselves to be broken in any way. However, the majority of people who don’t consider themselves broken will acknowledge that they aren’t perfect and make mistakes. How is it that most people will admit to imperfection but reject the notion of being broken? Are mistakes and shortcomings not evidence of at least some degree of brokenness in our lives? If our mistakes do not come from our brokenness, then where do our mistakes come from? Are we like broken clocks, so content with being spot-on twice a day that we are blinded to what our brokenness may be costing us the other hours of the day?
When Sarah and I were in the early months of our courtship, the time had come for me to meet her father to discuss my interest in his daughter. It was the first time Mr. Jakes and I had ever sat down together, and once my nervousness subsided, it proved to be a heartfelt and meaningful talk. After discussing a series of questions and concerns—which I presumed I had answered satisfactorily—we seemed to be winding down our conversation. But… with a piercing gaze that reached right into my soul, Mr. Jakes said, “Touré, I know what’s right with you. That all looks good. But tell me, what’s wrong with you?” It was a brilliant question.
So tell me, what’s wrong with you? Could you have readily responded to Mr. Jakes’ question? How willing and able are you to acknowledge that there may be broken areas in your life? If you want to be whole, you have to understand, address, and ultimately surrender your brokenness on the altar of wholeness. And there is no shame in being broken. You didn’t choose your brokenness; your brokenness chose you.
We all come into this world with at least a crack when we are born. Those before us were born into brokenness, and those before them the same. The brokenness you inherit is not your fault, but it is very much your responsibility to overcome it. Why? Because if your brokenness is left unchecked, it will steal from you.
Is it possible that brokenness in your life is costing you far more than you realize? What if brokenness is stealing from you at this very moment? What would you do if you discovered that peace, love, progress, and even finances were all going out the back door of your life because brokenness has been embezzling your blessings for years? The brutal truth? It is entirely possible. Brokenness is just as committed to your not reaching your mountaintop of potential as Wholeness is to your getting there.
“If brokenness is so costly, why is it so challenging for us to acknowledge?” In my view, it comes down to two things: pride and blind spots. Pride is what allows us to admit we aren’t perfect but prevents us from acknowledging brokenness. For the most part, imperfection is an acceptable norm in the human experience. Because imperfection is largely accepted, it escapes the requirement of change. It gives us an easy way out of our mistakes without the mandate for improvement. To be broken, however, is a different story. Brokenness requires fixing, and pride refuses to admit that there is anything at all to fix.
Blind spots are just what they sound like—obstructions that keep us from seeing our own brokenness. One of the hardest things for us to see clearly and completely is ourselves. We are aware of most of what is in front of us but little of what is within us. We all have an idea of who we are, but only from a limited perspective—our own. This predicament is similar to the blind spots we have with our physical eyes. Our eyes are in the front of our heads and enable us to see what is directly in front of us. We can turn our head to the left and to the right and up and down, which means our viewing range covers, at best, a 180-degree view. This means that at any given moment, there are another 180 degrees we are not seeing. Even with the best eyesight, there will always be blind spots, sometimes significant ones. Brokenness rarely makes a formal introduction but rather hides and even thrives in our blind spots.
What makes our brokenness even harder to detect is that we have learned how to function with dysfunction. It’s like using a crutch for a broken foot; as long as you have the crutch, you can still get around. That doesn’t mean your foot is any less broken, but you might convince yourself that it’s fine because, hey, you’re still getting from one place to another, right? But the more functional we are with our dysfunction, the greater our self-deception. Why? Because we equate being functional with being fine. That may work for a while, but not forever. One day, the painful truth that all is not well will bring everything to a screeching halt.
As I mentioned earlier, we all come into this world with a crack or two, which is some degree of brokenness. We didn’t choose it, but it is our reality. Then as we live in the world, we acquire a few more cracks, and the ones we already have deepen, sometimes into painful chasms. And that is the definition of brokenness. It means to be divided or split from within. We might acquire these cracks and splits in any number of ways. Here are just a few.
This is the brokenness we inherit from parents, grandparents, and even many generations before them. This could include domestic violence, alcoholism, or some other form of addiction. Because these issues were never addressed, they live on and perpetuate the cycle of brokenness from one generation to the next.
We live in a broken world, which means there is brokenness in our culture at large, the subcultures we are exposed to, and the social systems that shape the way we relate to one another. Examples include poverty, racism, and sexism.
This is the brokenness we experience when we are devalued or traumatized. Examples include verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as rejection and abandonment.
All of these forms of brokenness complicate and deepen our foundational brokenness. When brokenness is allowed to reign, it accumulates in layers—brokenness on top of brokenness. And then things get really complicated, because we inevitably attempt to heal our brokenness in ways that only produce more brokenness.
Touré Roberts is the lead pastor of One Church International and has a unique love for young Hollywood and the creative community. He is well known for his ability to speak into people’s lives and manifest their inherent greatness.