Supportive through the Gray

I like to think of myself as a very supportive person. I’m a hype-man with my friends –  cheering them on and supporting them – and I’m a cushion for my family – someone they can fall back on if they ever lose their balance or stumble. But one of the things I have a hard time doing is being supportive when I don’t want to be. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to encourage the people I love just because I don’t feel like it (although encouragement can be hard when you don’t always feel it yourself), but rather, supporting people through decisions I don’t necessarily approve of or agree with can be challenging.

Every day I’m forced to remind myself that people don’t think the way I do. Not everyone has the same dreams. Not everyone has the same plans. Not everyone has the same tolerance or the same mindset. You would think this is common sense, and it kind of is, but that doesn’t mean it’s something I always remember. I could be in a conversation or an argument and it won’t even occur to me that this person is different – it’s not until I actively remind myself that they are not the same that I’ll then try to change my perspective to one that matches theirs in order to understand. But sometimes I reallyyy don’t want to. I just want them to think like me. I just want them to see why what they’re doing/saying is ridiculous. (I can practically hear the gasps and whispers about how I’m being selfish.) But this is something everyone thinks, just not everyone admits to thinking it.

Lately I’ve been watching as someone I love hasn’t been supported in the way he needs because people (myself included) don’t agree with his ways. But what I’ve realized is that this lack of support isn’t pushing him to do the right thing, instead, it’s just pushing him away. Right and wrong aren’t concepts that are set in stone. There are clearly things that should be right to everyone and there are things that should be wrong to everyone, but there is also a very large gray area that nobody can agree on. Maybe it’s not our place to tell someone what shade of gray they’re standing on – whether it’s right or wrong. I think the better option would be to step back and tell the person that if they succeed, you’ll be proud, and if they fall, you’ll catch them.

The reason supporting people through decisions you don’t deem “right” is difficult is because you see failure on the other end. But if we could acknowledge that we see failure, while trying to understand how the other person sees success, well, maybe that’s what true support is.

Vulnerable

I remember taking a course on children’s literature a year or so ago and my professor loved TEDTalks. She enjoyed showing us new inspiring speeches each week and having us think critically about them and ourselves. The first video she showed us was called The Power of Vulnerability by Brené  Brown. Brown had been doing research for her PhD in social work when she had decided to look into what it meant for people to feel worthy – worthy of love, kindness, compassion, etc. In the end, Brown found that the people who felt worthy were the people who believed they had a reason to feel worthy. But it was more than this – these same people were also the ones who were vulnerable with their emotions and put themselves out on a limb despite their fear in order to feel something great.

It’s no secret that honesty and vulnerability kind of… well… suck. We compare love to heartbreaks and joy to sorrow because the times we have been the most vulnerable were the times we have received the deepest wounds. At some point, we stop trying to be vulnerable because building walls and hiding in our shells is better than risking being hurt. The truth becomes difficult due to its rarity to be told, and we lose the potential for joy as long as it means losing the risk for pain. But life doesn’t have to be this way.

We need to accept that we are imperfect people who will make many mistakes throughout our lives, and struggle is promised to us from the beginning. But we also need to accept that vulnerability is not a bad thing. Letting your guard down is how you let love in, and that should be embraced rather than feared. Be honest with yourself and with others. Maybe being weak is the key to growing strong.

How’s your heart?

A few years ago I made the decision to go back to church and find who I am with Christ. There are reasons why I did this, but they’re not important at the moment. What is important is one of the life changing things that I had learned. I remember going to a women’s conference about a year after, featuring Christa Black Gifford as the speaker. I learned so much at this conference and I grew personally and spiritually in so many ways, but one thing I will never forget is what I learned about the heart.

Christa had talked about having a broken heart – things in her life had caused wear and tear and left her heart weak. As she talked about this, I found tears filling my eyes. I realized that I had similar feelings. I’ll be the first to admit I have issues and I’ve been left with scars on my heart from things that have happened in my past. People have done me wrong and I’ve been left to fend for myself by building walls and pushing people away as soon as they get close. But the more I began to identify what was wrong and where the hurt came from, the more I was able to fix it. So when I ask people how their heart is, I don’t do so in hopes of making them sad, I do it because I’m genuinely curious and I don’t believe people think about their heart nearly as often as they should.

There is a form of art in the Chinese culture where pottery is broken and glued back together with a gold-glue mixture. What ends up being created is beautiful pottery with gold lines painted across it in place of the cracks. This art-form is known as “Kintsugi.” I wish we could take our broken hearts and fill them with gold. Rather than looking at what’s broken as something that’s ugly and irreparable, we can find a way to make it beautiful. We can take the cracks that leave us angry, and fill them with kindness; the cracks that make us cry, and fill them with love; the cracks that make us judgmental, and fill them with acceptance. Change is hard, especially when it stems from a place of such deep emotion. Changing your heart is like resetting a bone – it may hurt like hell, but in the end, it will allow the heart to heal back stronger than it was before.

Our hearts need to be reset and made strong.

Our hearts need to be filled with gold and made beautiful.

How’s your heart?

The Other Golden Rule

We all know the golden rule: “treat others the way you want to be treated.” And while this is a wonderful rule to follow, it rarely is. The problem is that in times of strong emotion such as sadness or anger, our mind goes towards ourselves and not others – we think of how we’re being treated and not how we should treat other people. All we can focus on is doing what we can to make ourselves feel better, then we can treat others the way we want to be treated (but only if they treat us that way first). I’m going to be honest… I think this rule is garbage. It’s a rule that brings out the selfish nature in humans and encourages us to act based on how we think we should act, which, can sometimes be very wrong. Yes, treating others the way we want to be treated is good, but it’s important to remember that we’re all different and what I can handle may be very different from what you can handle.

A while back I was scrolling through social media when I found the phrase, “always be kinder than you feel.” I thought to myself, “now THIS is a rule I can get on board with.” Have you ever known someone who had a habit of casting their emotions on other people? This is the kind of person who, when feeling low, needs everyone else to be low with them. They’re not thinking about treating others the way they want to be treated, they’re thinking about treating others the way the feel they’re being treated – again, the selfishness in our nature is brought out. But if this person instead thought about being kinder than they were feeling, maybe things could be different.

There are days where I feel anything but kind. I wake up with a heavy heart and negative energy seems to be a lot easier to deal with than positive energy. But it’s days like this that I try extra hard to be nice. I remind myself over and over to be kinder than I feel. Obviously this isn’t something that I accomplished in a day and there are times where I have failed miserably, but I like to think that as long as I keep trying, I’m accomplishing something. The other night I was so angry I could barely sleep. One of my friends was being treated with an incredible amount of disrespect by another friend, and I couldn’t handle it. I wanted to scream, to lash out, to tell the person everything they were doing wrong… but I didn’t. Instead, I sent the person a message letting them know I’m sorry for what they’re going through. I let them know that I had talked to God about them, and I hope the hurt they feel goes away. I didn’t react to anger with more anger, I reacted with kindness and compassion.

Always be kinder than you feel.

Let go

Over these past few days, the topic of forgiveness has been strangely present in my life. Whether it’s a topic being discussed in class or something brought up over the course of a conversation with friends, I’ve noticed it lingering for quite some time. I’m currently taking a Pakistani Literature course, so there’s obviously a lot of talk about the Partition and the life of people in Pakistan and India. A few days ago, we watched a short documentary about a girl who’s father and uncle tried killing her for marrying a man without their permission – they shot her and threw her in the river because she had disrespected them and “tarnished” the family name. As this young girl who had just been traumatized and severely injured began seeking justice for what had been done, she was coerced into publicly forgiving her father and uncle, which, according to Pakistani law, meant they were innocent and free to go. Later on, the young girl said these men were forgiven in the name of the law, but they would never be forgiven in her heart.

These situations are never easy. As a devout Christian, I believe very strongly in forgiveness. I believe the only reason I am able to live the way I do is because I have been forgiven. But what do you do when someone tried to kill you, or if someone hurt you in a way that was irreparable? Do you forgive them? Is it possible to forgive them? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer… everybody reacts to things differently and everybody believes in different things. But I think grudges hold you down and put a weight on your heart that can become detrimental to growth.

Maybe some people don’t deserve forgiveness, but the world would be a much different place if everyone got what they deserve. I believe in the power of letting go – what’s been done can never be undone and you may always be left with a scar to remind you of what has happened, but until you let go, you’re picking at a scab that’s trying to heal. You’re making the process last longer and become more painful.

Wish people the best, even if they’ve given you the worst. Send a prayer or a good thought their way, and let go.