For several years I have done home inspections for a local real estate company. After they purchase a house, they ask me to go through it, top to bottom and identify any potential issue that would make the home structurally unsound, unsafe, and/or outdated. As I grow my therapy practice I still work for them part time. I like the company, I like the people, I like that no two houses are ever the same, and that I learn a lot about people. I learn how they live by what they leave behind and the condition of their space, but I also learn about people in a metaphorical sense.
I was doing an inspection earlier this week and I began reflecting that it's very easy to ignore the structure of things. It's easy to focus on the outer layers, the cosmetics, the brand.
Here is what I mean, anytime I want to inspect the structure of a home I have to prepare because it's harder than walking through the house, it takes energy. I have to prepare for the darkness of the attic and crawlspace, cobwebs, mud, insulation, and general discomfort to my body and psyche. The reality is that there is always the potential of spiders and other critters that lurk in the dark. But thankfully, most of the time, the critters I imagine are smaller and less invasive that the ones I actually meet.
However, (and this is the critical point in sharing this) it is often in these spaces where I discover the most severe issues. For example, the other day I was at a house where the scope of repairs has already been completed and it looked pretty good from the street. When I went in the crawl space I noticed a significant issue, uh oh. Termites have begun eating away at the central support beam, the girder, for half the entire length of the house. The very structure has been slowly eaten away for years. This is a major problem.
How long before it fails? I wonder if anyone even noticed over the years? I wonder if they noticed the subtle evidence of an increasing slope in the floor or the tightening of doors? Maybe they didn't know what this evidence indicated. Maybe they chose to ignore it. Maybe they willfully chose to get rid of the house so not to deal with it.
Maybe, had it been addressed years ago at the first sign of a problem, the structure would still be sound.
Interestingly enough, addressing this issue is not incredibly hard. Or at least not as hard as one might imagine. It doesn't take very long, all things considered. It simply takes a willingness to go, a willingness to get dirty, a willingness to be uncomfortable. Yet I find that many are not willing to do this. Many seem to prefer anything to the work of investigating and repairing structures. Even the contractors who are paid thousands of dollars tend try and avoid the attic and the crawl space at all cost. There have been many jobs where I have gone to inspect upon completion and have found that the agreed-upon work by the contractor has not been done in the crawl space or attic.
It's almost like a hopeful wink-and-nod to skim over it and pass it on down the line. Maybe the next guy won't have the will and energy to notice either? "Heck, if the inspector doesn't say anything, maybe its not a big deal?" At times there seems to be a hope that both the contractor and inspector will turn a blind-eye and therefore become complicit in willful blindness at best and overt deception at worst. It's a harsh truth in the housing industry.
But I'm not writing this just to talk about houses.
I'm writing about the human condition, specifically the human heart and its personas, brands, and the outward constructs designed as a focal presentation to the world, masks. While there is often a focus on the outer things, termites eat away at the very foundation, in the darker places.
And what's most sad to me is that most of the time, people really do know about what's wrong, or at least know that something is wrong. "Why won't my door shut any more? Why does the door stick everytime I try to open it? They think about it and perhaps dwell on it (perhaps not), then promote the brand and turn a blind eye hoping no one will notice, maybe it will be fine.
But it's not fine at all.
However, for their individual reasons, many do not investigate it, report their findings, and seek help in repairing them. (Note: I suspect that for many people the reason they do not examine the darker places of their structure is because they do not feel safe to be authentic, respected for where they are in their journey, and understood from their perspective. It is sad that people feel this way and sad that individuals, families, and social institutions have not done a better job at providing this for their people.)
As for the housing market, most of the time we know that in almost every house there's an issue, somewhere. Yet despite that, there is still a temptation to ignore it and pass over it if possible. This is both true for the buyer and the seller. In some ways both become complicit in a dark game.
How often is this also true for relationships? (Parent and child. Husband and wife. Teacher and student Pastor and parishioner. Suicidal person and their friend. Therapist and client.)
I'm afraid to know the real answer.
I have also learned that if you repair the outward parts of the house, the less structural things first, you will have to fix them again later. What happens for example, is if the support structure fails, you will need to raise the foundation, this is often just slightly, however, it's enough to create cracks in the drywall and causes the doors to skew.
Many times people wonder why certain doors in their life never seem to open up (better relationships, better jobs, etc). They also wonder why some doors tend to stay open no matter how hard they try and shut them (past relationships, addiction, destructive patterns, etc).
Perhaps we all need to find more courage and willingness to examine the foundations and structures of our life.
If you dare to look, you will find the truth and the truth is always the best place to start building. However, it's often scary and hard to go alone. I hope you can find courage. I hope you can go to the safe, respectful, and understanding people in your life and share the truth and be more authentic. If you do not have those people in your life, please don't hesitate to reach out to me for resources or help. I've been there myself, I've been to the depths and come back. I have more hope in humanity than ever and I find great joy in walking with others on the journey.
There is hope.