At a meeting I recently attended, my friend Rachel astutely observed that we are often more likely to be open about what our thoughts, struggles and challenges are with those who have short term impacts on our lives. There is something to be said about the safety of being able to close off ourselves after a period of time.
But as I reflect on this, I’m confronted with the sadness that we feel compelled to shield our lives from those around us. We’re concerned that our vulnerability might cause people to think less of us. We’re concerned that others might judge us. We’ve learnt that being vulnerable gets us burnt, and so we choose to lock our feelings, thoughts and emotions away.
Days like today (it is RUOK day if you missed it) try to challenge this, by encouraging us to take the first step to really enquire as to the wellbeing of another. To genuinely care.
But as many of my friends have observed the challenge with this is that those who are genuinely struggling don’t just need those “moments” of connection; they need long term, ongoing support, encouragement and care. They need friendship from people who will not just suspend judgement of their feelings, but who will genuinely decide that the person who is experiencing the downs of life is more important than the feelings and emotion that surrounds it. They need people who will support them regardless of the situation and concern.
If you are going to ask RUOK today (and I would encourage you to do so), also take the time to assess your own reactions, thoughts and emotional responses to those you are trying to support. Try to recognise where your responses are judgemental rather than caring and compassionate. Challenge yourself to “check” those responses, and consider how you can build relationships where the person you are relating to is more important than the weight of experience they are going through. Consider how today can just be one step in a longer journey of care and support.
While it might be easier to share how you are feeling with someone who is only there for a moment, it would be so much better to share with someone who is going to be beside you for the long haul.
Supporting someone who is dealing with the dark side of life can be hard – but remember, your actions in supporting them are probably no where near what the person is going through.
Walk this road together. There is light in the darkness, even if we sometimes can’t see it.
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