Original Post: 25/09/2016
From a year to six days, we are making progress people! Thank you for all the wonderful feedback, means the absolute world! Without further ado, I’m here:
After dipping a toe into Pandora’s Box last week I got scared about what to write about next because any further in would have to be a head-first, full submersion into the deep end. A friend of mine raised the point however, that in order for you to be authentic with someone and be honest about what was really going on inside, trust and openness is required on their behalf as well. Half of the fear of opening up comes from how you will be perceived. Now please do not misunderstand last week’s post, I am not advocating for a life where you throw your bleeding heart out on every table. No, that is just asking for more pain and heartbreak. Matthew 7:6 sums up the caution required with who you share with quite well and is a verse that has been rippling through my head all week: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” In order to share we need to know who to share with, so as I prepare to dive into my own Pandora’s Box I thought I would first write about being “here.”
I feel as though our knee-jerk reaction to a bleeding heart is to feel uncomfortable and then shove it aside with a promise of support at a future time – “I’m here if you need to talk.” Though we really mean, “Just not right now because I am not ready to deal with this.” It is too awkward to face the music when it is playing, so we hit pause. We are disturbed by the sudden imperfection of someone’s mask, and the fact that they are willing to take theirs off scares us as being there for them comes at a cost. It requires us to take off our mask; we must meet a human mess with a human heart.
I have found in the last two months, as my life took a rough tumble, that so many people say that they are there for you, but few follow through. I do not have the best track record as far as maintaining friendships is concerned so trusting someone enough to open up was scary. My heart was yearning for someone to come pick up the pearls that had fallen from my neck, and as I had heard many times before “I’m here if you need someone to talk to” was on repeat throughout conversations. I brushed aside all the “I’m here” statements as I was sick of hearing them. I was sick of never having a hand extended out when I was in a crisis, beyond wanting to know out of a gossip-centred curiosity. I was sick of people not being open to the messiness of my heart because they expected me to be put together all the time.
But the extraordinary happened. The first friend followed up. She pursued me with persistence until I met her for a sugar-loaded hot chocolate and brownie date and wanted to know how my heart was, not the details of what happened. Then the next friend followed up with a block of my favourite chocolate and a thoughtful note. Then a care package arrived from another. Friends brought me tissues and held me when I cried and I was overwhelmed. I did not know this kind of genuine friendship and I saw that through their authentic care and my vulnerability doors were opened to get to know my friends in new ways. I showed them my insecurities and bleeding heart and instead of being put off or just trying to cover them with bandages, they put theirs on the table and we just let the pain sit together. I found comfort in silent cries, unspoken confessions of a terrible day and tales of life-long battles. My pain did not seem as enormous and the mountain before me was no longer unconquerable because there were people beside me with similar burdens on their back and blisters on their feet.
It convicted me of all the past “I’m here’s” that I have muttered and how little of those that I have followed up with. I was also surprised at the number of memes that I came across depicting our avoidance of emotion and honesty out of fear of awkwardness and discomfort. We need to learn to accept that friendship is uncomfortable and awkward at times, and that is okay. It is okay to not know how to handle tears and it is okay to not have the answers for your friend’s problems. What is not okay is letting that put you off not being there. Embrace the uncomfortable and just be there, just listen and ask them the next time you see them how they have been – do not just be there for a once off conversation. A friend said to me the other day that is when you are going through a crisis that you find out who your real friends are and I could not agree more! The friends that offer to call you when you send out an S.O.S. text message, that ask you the next day how you are coping, that check in on your crisis management plan months after disaster struck – those are your true friends.
Showing your support does not need to be in the form of a tangible gift or a catch-up that costs money; the times where I was allowed to just sit and cry on the floor at church next to a friend was enough. All it needs to cost is time and vulnerability on your side to receive their bleeding heart and hold it gently. As Bob Goff said, “Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice.” I challenge you this week to reach out to a friend that has shared something of their heart with you before and follow up, ask how they are doing and put actions to your “I’m here” statements. It may come up empty, that they are not hurting anymore, but you would have opened a door to an authentic friendship. You would be stepping out of the pig pen to pick up their pearls as a friend. It requires that two take off their masks and open their hearts for there to be honesty, comfort and restoration. It takes two to successfully navigate Pandora’s Box.
Also a MASSIVE thank you and big shout out to those friends that have challenged me in the last year to be authentically me and those that have held my bleeding heart with graceful awkwardness and confident discomfort. You are the real MVP.