Monday, October 6, 2014

Books, Blogs, Bibles, and Bullies

I try hard to be real. I share my past, my struggles, my flaws, my shortcomings ... some people think I share too much, but it is how I process experiences. Regardless of what I'm going through, I seek out books, articles, blogs by people who have been through a similar event.

For example, when my brother committed suicide, I read every book I could find about suicide. If you're interested, The Suicide Index and History of a Suicide were amazing. I found understanding and comfort reading about how others dealt with these experiences. Additionally, reading, unlike talking, allowed me to process it in my own time, in my own space. I could walk away if I wanted and carry the words around when necessary.

Speaking of carrying words around, last week, my sister-in-law sent me a blog that I have read and reread about 42 times. This line: "...my counselor tells me to try not to give people my heart and the hammer to smash it with all at the same time..." has been rolling around in my head all week. My dad used to say, "If you walk around with your feelings hanging out, someone is going to step on them." And in the wisdom of Proverbs 4, one of the lines we hear most is about guarding your heart. For me, it all points to this: Too often, in my efforts to be real and transparent, I give people ammunition.

One of my spiritual gifts is mercy, and I believe that part of my purpose in life is to listen--empathically and without judgment. People share stories with me. Deep, personal, often intimate stories. Mostly, I feel blessed to offer them a place to vent and unload. Sometimes, the level of personal information divulged is awkward and uncomfortable, but I seek to make the person feel heard and valued. Occasionally, I feel burdened and want to be left alone, but listening is what I do.

So...back to that article, my dad, and the Bible. Sometimes, I feel a false or inflated sense of camaraderie with people and divulge personal information of my own. You might think, "You say all kinds of reallllllly personal things here; what's the difference?" You're right. I try to share relevant relatable information so others can find validation and support. But sometimes, I can be even more vulnerable and transparent interpersonally. Historically it hasn't worked out very favorably.

Let's be real. In a moment of feeling it's a safe place to share or having had one too many glasses of chardonnay, you confess to a friend that you are feeling really insecure about your recent weight gain. A week or so later, at lunch with the same friend, you order cheesecake for dessert, and she comments with one eye-brow cocked heavenward, "Ohhhh, you're having dessert?" Whether or not she means anything by it, your feelings are hurt. You gave her your heart and the hammer, and she used them. Ouch.

I'll be even more real, since I can finally laugh about this. When my kids were little everyone used to say how much they looked like Brad. When Chloe was a baby, one person said, "It doesn't even look like YOU had anything to do with her." It hurt my feelings, and I shared that with a few people. One of my closest friends kindly pointed out, "Yeah, your kids really don't look anything like you." Heart. Hammer. Boom. 

Side note: Not all my friends suck. My dear sweet girlfriend made Peyton a t-shirt with my baby picture on it so it was very, very clear just where he got his curls.

The point of this is not that my friends suck or your friends suck. Sometimes we give people ammunition. When they use it? It is because of something that is flawed or broken or lacking in them, and it says nothing about us. I'm gonna just write that again. It is because of something that is flawed or broken or lacking in THEM. Not us.

Have you ever secretly celebrated a friend's misfortune--even a little? Ever felt a twinge of jealousy when something terrific happened for someone else when things weren't going so well for you? I have. More times than I care to admit. When I was trying to get pregnant, I almost had to go into isolation because it made me so sad every time I saw or heard about another pregnant woman. That had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.

Recently, I have been dealt a couple low blows, and my initial reaction was to feel hurt and ask myself what could trigger such meanness. Fortunately, I remembered that it isn't my job to figure out what is going on in other people; that's why God directed me off the counseling path. However, it is my job to be kind, to be loving, to forgive and to show mercy and empathy.

If someone has hurt you with their words, actions, or inactions, you don't have to own that. It isn't about you. When people use our vulnerability as a weapon to hurt us, they are bullies. And bullies are often frightened, hurting, and making a lot of noise and commotion to distract people away from their own vulnerabilities.

Whew. Namaste.

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