“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.”
from The Velveteen Rabbit
Whenever I read aloud from this portion of The Velveteen Rabbit, I slow down my words, emphasizing each truth like they are melting chocolate morsels. In context, this is part of a dialogue between two imaginary characters, the Skin Horse and the Velveteen Rabbit. In symbol, this is a philosophical–even spiritual–revelation stated in elegant, profound prose.
“You become. It takes a long time.”
Do we ever fully realize our individual impact on others? By the time we “become,” we are often considered past tense. If we are fortunate, we see smiles or hear words of appreciation beforehand. Most likely, it is more fortunate to be oblivious. Because in enduring the time it takes to “become,” one of two things happens. We become more prideful of our accomplishments or–as this quotation describes–we become more humble. To realize our impact inserts pride and negates the fully Real humility without pretense. So, along with the potential of past-tense status, only the humble–through experiencing humiliation–fulfill the prerequisites for “becoming.”
“That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”
We cringe at the thought of being fragile, edgy, over-sensitive people. Yet, most of us have at least a chip, a point, or an antique notion we wish to protect. Maybe it is when we are willing to reveal our flaws, acquiesce our opinion, or share our idiosyncrasies that we move closer to being Real.
“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.”
The assumption of this statement is to be Real is to be old. Yet, the Skin Horse chose to use the word “generally.” There are exceptions to the age assumption. Many of the most Real people I know are children, especially ones who have faced trauma early in life. Possessing the most important word in this statement outranks the age requirement. That word is bald-faced, eyes-wide-open, flexible, come-as-you-are unconditional love.
“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.”
Seeing the ugly redeemed is a miraculous occurrence. Even within this children’s story, illness and abandonment lead to the Velveteen Rabbit’s ultimate goal. He becomes Real because…
a real tear forms a flower and a fairy turns him into a real rabbit.
Well…yes, but there is more to be understood from this children’s classic.
He becomes Real because of the boy’s belief.
He becomes Real because he lives his purpose even though it means being left outside in the bracken and twisted up in sickbed sheets.
He becomes Real because he returns after being discarded and replaced.
He becomes Real because of what his real tear of sorrow proves.
He loved first.
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.