This is a really vulnerable, raw post. I originally put it on Facebook but thought it belonged here. Some of you might call it oversharing. I don’t care. It’s my blog. If you aren’t into that kind of thing or it makes you uncomfortable, you probably want to skip it.
I just had a conversation today with my sister Dyan where she said something very wise, and something I have long believed.
I’m having a tough time right now.
And yet, we don’t make it very acceptable for that to be the truth for people.
We aren’t graceful when someone is hurting. We want to fix it or make them fix it, tell them why they shouldn’t feel that way, tell them why all the evidence points to other feelings they should have, preach things like perseverance and overcoming and not letting things get you down.
We tell them to suck it up and go to the gym anyway because that’s being strong. Or to “gut through” the pain. Or to “man up” and get to work. To be fierce or strong or anything but broken. Because we are horribly uncomfortable around broken people.
We glamorize people who are “unstoppable”, revere the seemingly invincible people that are never brought down, by anything. So what happens when we’re stopped dead in our tracks?
One important thing I have learned from therapy: our hearts don’t learn by force. They don’t respond to direction. They have to *relearn* and live through emotions in order to make sense of them, in context. We can know something intellectually, but it might take our hearts some time to catch up.
Telling someone they “should” or “need to” feel a certain way – like the well-meaning “oh but you have all the reasons in the world to feel happy/confident/at peace” – is insensitive at best and dismissive at worst, making someone feel guilt and shame over emotions they can’t control with a switch and most certainly didn’t ask for.
This isn’t license for all of us to endlessly surrender to our emotions and use them to excuse our behavior. Nor do I believe that you can forever hang around someone who is unwilling to help themselves or work through the difficult times, even when it’s messy.
Instead, it’s a plea for patience during that process. For understanding that emotions are on a spectrum. For grace for people when they’re having a tough day or week or month. It’s an ask for us to let it be okay for someone to hurt without having to compare our hurt to theirs in order to “give them perspective”. It’s a request that we sometimes hand someone the tissues, offer a hug, and assure them that there is light on the other side, and that they’ll find it in their own time.
We hate the unrealistic body images that the media has fed us for years. Maybe we ought to dislike the unrealistic emotional pictures we’ve been handed, too.
I think we’d all be more at ease with taking a mental health break from our days or lives — without defending it or needing endless validation that it’s okay to do it — if we’d just accept this need for healing the way we would if someone broke their leg, and practice compassion instead of suspicion or derision when someone hurts.
Sometimes, difficult emotion is a plea for attention. A very real, human act of seeking comfort in the strength that someone else has while you don’t. It’s okay to give it. It’s okay to need it. It’s okay to not have it all figured out today, to sink into the pain and just say “this really hurts right now, and it sucks.”
We have so demonized the idea of seeking attention and validation that it’s become a character flaw to do so, ever. Which is heartbreaking to me.
Because I personally feel the pain of rejection when someone ignores my hurt or refuses to reach out because it might somehow enable me wallowing in a pit of self-pity. I feel the shame when I default to swallowing the feelings, if only so that someone else doesn’t think I’m weak, or pathetic, or dramatic, or ‘out of control’. I lie and make excuses about why I’m not at the gym today because it’s simply not okay to skip being awesome today in favor of being in pain.
And it all eats me up inside.
I’m not a negative person by default. But when my negative emotions aren’t dealt with well by me and aren’t given grace by those around me, they dominate my world. We are consumed by what’s unresolved in our lives. And there’s precious little room for the joy to sneak through the cracks in between. We only have so much energy to give.
Broken feelings and emotions are real, too. Tough love isn’t always the way to help them find their way back to okay. We’re not doing ourselves favors by insisting that a brave face is the cure for a damaged spirit.
And I’m starting with me, because it’s the only place I have. You can unfriend or unfollow or unsubscribe if you like. You can choose not to be my friend. It’s absolutely your right to choose the company you keep. But I am learning to give myself compassion first, and that my emotions are not things to be ashamed of, even when I don’t understand them.
Being real about our hurt and our struggles is the only way back to our humanity. Being kind to others when they hurt is the key to our own grace. And allowing emotion and compassion to be a beautiful part of the human condition instead of a terrible flaw is our first step to living less pain.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
That means being kind to yourself, too.