Sharing both joys and sorrows

I recently read a noteworthy article, in which two people share their experiences surrounding their choice to invite their friends and family to join them in both their joys and sorrows.   http://thefederalist.com/2015/05/01/joy-and-grief-keeping-pregnancies-secret-limits-both/#.VUNrvqtKNjU.twitter

As a whole, people don’t think twice about sharing exciting news with friends and family. When something big happens, you find yourself bubbling over with excitement, you can hardly hold it in; so you tell everyone around, with hopes that they too will join in your overflowing enthusiasm. 

But when faced with discouraging or painful news (or even just the risk of having such news in the future) our response is vastly different. We may tell ourselves: “Others won’t care,” “So and so’s situation is worse,” “I can handle it,” “It’s safer to not tell because I might get hurt worse if I do tell,” “It’s not a big deal,” “I don’t want to burden others,” “Everyone is so happy, I don’t want to ruin the mood,” “No one will understand,” “Others will judge me,” …. And the list of the things we tell ourselves could go on for forever. But the end result is the same: we hold it in, struggle along by ourselves, and feel lonely and isolated. We try to protect ourselves or others from pain by not sharing, but in the end, we deprive ourselves and others of the opportunity to really engage in relationship, to fully experience the benefits of relationship. And in many instances, our lack of sharing results in increased pain and hardship for ourselves or others. 

Yes, sharing grief and hardship with others requires vulnerability. It’s scary and risky. There’s a chance that the person to whom you disclose won’t respond in a helpful and encouraging way. But, by not sharing you deprive yourself of the opportunity to be cared for by the other person. You can only experience that deep love and support in your hardship, if you take that step of vulnerability and share with others about your hardship. Furthermore, by not sharing, you deprive others of the benefits that come with supporting others through hardship. 

So often we worry about being a burden to others; yet in reality, being able to support others through difficulties, not only helps the recipient but also strengthens the giver. For example, have you ever shared words of comfort or advice with a friend, and in the process realized that they were applicable to yourself also? In the process of encouraging or teaching others, the speaker’s own understanding and conviction of the concept strengthens.

By sharing our difficulties, we also reveal to others that they are not alone in their struggles. Holding our pain and sorrow in, perpetuates the mis-perception that “most people don’t experience pain and no one will understand what I am going through.” Whereas if we are willing to take the risk to be vulnerable, we may potentially bless others in unmeasurable ways. 

In order to fully experience the deep benefits of interpersonal relationships, we must take that step of vulnerability and share both our joys and sorrows with those in our community.

The Fullness of True Experience

The front door is open, leaving the glass window of the storm door exposed. Holly, our two year old puppy is crouched at the door with her eyes glued to the welcome mat. Her ears are standing in full attention, her spine fur is upright, her front left paw is held mid-air ready to step, and her tail is stiffly curled side-ways: her characteristic hunting pose. She is ready to pounce on any chipmunk or squirrel that dares to venture near. Although each effort she makes to defend her property is sadly thwarted by the piece of clear glass between herself and the outside world, she is determined to be ready for the next threat.

Nothing is sufficiently enticing to draw her away from the glass door. I call her name, her ears twitch slightly but her eyes never move. I offer a treat, she gives it a brief glance, only to return to the door with increased determination. Even the invitation of her favorite activity – going outside – is not sufficiently enticing to draw her away from the facade of protecting her territory. Ironically, if she were to go outside, she could actually chase squirrels, rather than just watch them through the glass. However, in order to have a true hunting experience, she must turn her back on the glass and walk away, letting go of the near reality for the fullness of true experience.

Oh how often do our own lives mirror that of Holly’s. We hang on so tightly to our partial realities, unwilling to let them go for genuine experiences. We hide behind our protective masks, peering through the eye holes at the prospects of relationships, but too scared to lower the mask in order to experience the deep connection of true relationships. We attempt to bury our pain and sorrow with fun and merriment, clinging desperately to a facade of happiness, when true healing and fulfillment are attainable, but require walking away from our quick fixes in order to experience the full breadth of life. Holly may be just a puppy, but she has left me pondering the irony and deep sadness of our tendency to watch longingly through glass doors, only to experience the facade of reality, when the rich fullness of life is attainable.

I hope that this blog post and each to follow, will provoke contemplation and consideration, for how to more genuinely experience the fullness of life. I cannot say that I have the answers to all of life’s questions and dilemmas. However, I hope that my thoughts will be of assistance to you, as I endeavor to step past the glass and walk in the richness of life.