“I sold my soul to it all.” he whispered as he leaned in close. I couldn’t believe he was telling me something so personal. I barely knew him.

“They came in like a flood. The applause, the requests for more, the likes and the smiles and the cries of ‘We want you!’ Before I knew it I was doing things I never really wanted to do in the first place. I did them because I liked being liked. I liked being in the inside circle. I had to keep up with the big guns, so I did what the big guns were doing. They made me feel powerful. And I liked that. I liked that so much,” he continued, opening up to me in a way that probably surprised himself. The words just kept spilling out of his mouth, a cascade of honesty over things he had never let himself truly believe. He was desperate. He needed to get rid of it, and he wanted to spread the message that it was never supposed to be like this. Life was never supposed to be lived in desperation of being liked. How frivolous.

“You know, before I knew it,” he said, sitting back in his chair as if to say he was getting more comfortable about opening up about the whole thing, “I was creating things that allowed me to have power over people, and I wasn’t even sure if I believed in the product I was creating. I just knew that the product gained me favor with the people I so desperately didn’t want to disappoint. And it caused more people to need me and look to me as an expert. I had had that hole in my soul for a long, long time… needing to be needed and respected. I just kept plowing through life, trying to cover that hole through good works.”

As he spoke, I found myself thinking that this was the kind of stuff we all wish our elders and our mentors and our teachers and our parents would tell us. Enough with the self-help books, and the sermonizing, and the posturing yourself like you only have answers and no questions. Enough pretending. Enough with that nonsense. The victory is in the honesty.

The crowd chants, “Speak to us from your valleys!”

We need music from your depths…not your surface, your lip service.

We find solace in your streams that you are learning to wade in.

And we will wade with you.