Cam Taylor

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Shabbiness Doesn’t Matter – if You Are Real

He didn’t mind how he looked to other people,
because the nursery magic had made him Real,
and when you are Real, shabbiness doesn’t matter.

— from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

The Velveteen Rabbit is a children’s story of one rabbit’s journey from his arrival one Christmas morning to finally eventually becoming Real. The rabbit endured fancier toys strutting their stuff and acting superior to his simple – more worn with each passing year – self.


In the course of nursery life, the velveteen rabbit met the Skin Horse and had this conversation:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become 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.”*

The rabbit did eventually become real. Yes, he did grow shabby over time, but it didn’t matter because he was loved by the boy and learned to embrace his shabbiness after all.

Dealing with Shabbiness

The events of life wear us down and create shabbiness we aren’t keen to embrace. Hair loss, memory loss, beauty loss, loss of strength, disfigurement of the body, and the reduction of who we once were.

I’m not the strong, healthy person I used to be. My body has been marred by life altering events. My legs don’t work right, I walk with a limp, and I wear scars that are hard to hide in a swimming pool. It impacts how I see myself and how I show up in the world. I don’t always feel Real or alive when reflecting on my shabbiness.

Why is that? It is because I let the voices around me impact how I feel about myself? Do  I believe the lie that says you are Real if you are strong and put together?

Two Principles Necessary for Becoming REAL

Two principles that are core to making you Real and accepting your shabbiness:

  1. Knowing you are loved

If you know you are loved, you will have the inner strength to accept your shabbiness. The rabbit knew he was loved and therefore could be OK with shabbiness.

Do you know you are loved? Do you know and believe that God loves you? Do you love yourself (with warts and all)? Do you have someone in your life who loves you unconditionally?

If you can answer “yes” to those questions, the next step to accepting your shabbiness and being Real is within reach.

  1. Walking with Humility

The second principle to being Real is learning to walk with humility.

Humility involves two decisions:

  • Humility is the willingness to be weak and vulnerable with others

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” (Criss Jami)

The more you accept your own shabbiness and weakness, the more comfortable you will be in your own skin. Humility allows you to see the character and true worth that lies within your shabby exterior. The best gift you can give others is who you really are – warts and all!

  • Humility is the choice to think less of yourself and more of others

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” (C.S. Lewis)

The more you focus on yourself and your own shabbiness, the less Real you will feel. The more you focus on others and their needs, the more Real you will feel.

This truth hit home this week when I stopped in to visit a neighbor I had never met who has been in the hospital for three months. I showed up in his hospital room and connected instantly. We shared one another’s weakness, swapped stories and x-rays and quite honestly, I felt alive. My shabbiness was a gift I could give to him as encouragement as he faces his own struggle.

When you’re real, you know deep down that you’re loved and valued by God, yourself and others. When you’re real, you walk humbly and shabbiness doesn’t matter.

What shabbiness are you having a hard time embracing?
What does it mean for you to be loved?

* You can read the complete story here.

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About Cam Taylor

Life and leadership coach, transition & change specialist, husband, dad, leader, writer, life long learner.

6 Replies

  1. Shirlene Henning

    I believe this blog, Cam, has to be the best one yet. All the others are great and rank very high on my radar as well. What an encouragement to accept my “shabbiness” – that is an interesting word and as “I” get “older” – not old – just older 🙂 – a new shabbiness shows up everyday. Praise God He loves me so I can think less of myself and more of others. And I do appreciate the shabbiness of others more. I really appreciate that skin horse!! Very wise words.

    1. Thanks Shirlene for your words of affirmation and sharing how this shabbiness theme strikes a cord with you. It’s true how new forms of shabbiness show up everyday but to those who know and love you, it’s what makes you – you! I like what you said about getting older but not OLD – may that be true of all of us!

  2. Terry Clyne

    I have always loved that little book, “The Velveteen Rabbit”, and have read it to the kids and used it as a sermon illustration. It is a nice place to be when you can accept who you are and not what you feel the pressure to be. It is nice to have arrived in middle-age being O.K. with who God made me to be. Occasionally, my eye will wander to someone who seems to “have it all together” and there is a momentary envy, but now I can “shake it off”. I guess the trick is to find the balance between accepting your “shabbiness,” and making excuses for changing when God is calling you to make change. Thanks, Cam; you’ll never be “shabby” in my eyes!

    1. Well said Terry – there really is a tension between accepting what is but changing what can be changed. Your shabbiness shines through is a good way!

  3. Terry Clyne

    Sorry. That should be “I guess the trick is to find the balance between accepting your “shabbiness,” and making excuses for NOT changing when God is calling you to make change.”

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