Which Weighs More?

Remember the childhood riddle, “Which is heavier, a ton of bricks or a ton of feathers?”

feathers

It was great fun to catch someone giving the wrong answer.

Because, of course, a ton is a ton is a ton.  Weight is an absolute measure.

But it takes fewer bricks to reach that quota although it takes just as much strength to lift the burden.

weights-dumbbells

One thing I’m learning in my grief journey is that there are so many people carrying a load.

I find my compassion radar has been fine-tuned to hear even the faintest whisper of hurt in someone’s voice, to see the tiniest gleam of a tear, to notice the smallest stoop of shoulders or the beginning of a frown.

And while some of us have had our ton of pain and sorrow delivered via bricks-suddenly, forcefully and overwhelmingly dumped-others have acquired their ton over a lifetime of disappointment, struggle and testing.

They both weigh a ton.  

And they both require great strength to carry.

It’s a challenge to resist the urge to rank my experience on a continuum of pain.

Although I bridle when people compare their loss of a pet or job to my loss of a child (as I wrote about here), I do try to extend grace when others expose their own wounds.

I want to comfort other people with the comfort I have received.  Not only the comfort from Christ-which is the ultimate comfort-but also the comfort I’ve received from wise friends and caring sisters-in-loss.

I want to be a listening ear, a compassionate heart and an outstretched hand.

Reaching Out to Help Someone in Despair

I want to be a witness, a fellow traveler on the journey, an encourager.

Grief

is grief

is grief.

A ton is a ton is a ton.

Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness

I love the idea of Random Acts of Kindness-it’s a beautiful way to spread love and joy in our broken world.

With a few dollars or a few minutes, I have the opportunity to make someone’s day brighter, their burden lighter and remind them that not everyone is “out to get them”.

BUT-as I’ve written before here:  Relational Acts of Kindness, it’s relatively easy to do my good deed and walk away.

When I bless a stranger, my work is done.

I feel good, they feel good-it’s all good.

I find it much harder to purpose to be kind every day to the people I actually KNOW-the one who may have said cutting things in the past, the one who consistently rubs me the wrong way, the one I feel is lazy or subversive or just holds opinions with which I disagree.

How about the one I thought would show up to help but didn’t?  Or the one who has told tales about me or my family?  The one who lets her children run wild at church? The one who makes others uncomfortable with her dress, or language, or lack of social skill?

Being kind to THAT person is hard.

I want to turn the other way.  I want to make excuses.  I want to pretend that my kindness toward strangers balances my lack of kindness to those with whom I walk daily.

It doesn’t.

I am called to be kind at precisely that place where it is most difficult.  I am called to act in love toward just that person who is most unloveable.  I am called to lay down my life where it looks most likely to be unappreciated.

ephesians-4-31-32

Denying myself is the very method by which Christ builds His kingdom.

Offering my body as a living sacrifice is the pressure He applies to mold my flesh into His likeness

washing-feet-beauty

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the heathen lord it over them and that their great ones have absolute power? But it must not be so among you. No, whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be your slave—just as the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others free.”

Matthew 20:27-29 PHILLIPS

 

 

Repost: The Cost of Compassion

 

compassion is a choice

I can’t help it.

I think too much.  I wonder too often.  I work too hard to make sense of things.

And the thing that is puzzling me right now is why people pull away from those experiencing deep and lasting pain.

Read the rest here:  the cost of compassion

How To Respond When Someone Shares Their Pain

empathy-dictionary

We’ve all been there-we ask a routine question and someone refuses to play the social game.  

We say, “How are you?” and they answer honestly instead of with the obligatory, “I’m fine.  You?”

Suddenly the encounter has taken an unexpected turn.

“Oh, no!  I don’t know what to say,” you think.

It can end badly-both of you walking away uncomfortable and wary.

But it doesnt have to. There are ways to express compassion and empathy, words that can comfort and encourage.

What should you say when I, or anyone, shares their heart-their pain?

  • Acknowledge my pain. Don’t be silent or gloss over my declaration by changing the subject.  Silence often feels like disapproval and changing the subject feels like dismissal.  I have just entrusted you with something important, something it was hard for me to share, something that is a great burden on my heart-let me know you heard me.  Good responses that are always appropriate:  “I’m sorry”; “That must be hard”and “My heart hurts for you”.  In person, a hand on the arm or a hug is good.  Give me space to cry if that’s what I need to do.

 

  • Ask questions.  Not the who-what-when-where-why questions that fuel gossip and make good news stories.  But questions that can help me share more:  “Do you want to talk about it?” or “How can I help you?”.  It may take a few moments for me to answer-I may have to think about if I really do want to share more.  You may help me by asking, “What’s especially hard right now?”  

 

  • Accept that this hurts ME-even if you think it wouldn’t hurt YOU. Everyone’s story  is unique.  You may be more emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually resilient than me.  Great!  But this is MY story, and this hurts ME.  Please, please, please do not try to talk me out of my pain.  Please don’t toss Bible verses or platitudes at me seeing if they will stick.  Please don’t tell me about how YOU would handle my situation (unless I ask). And, more than anything, please do not turn my heartfelt sharing into a discussion of how my pain causes you pain.  It may be true, but now I feel guilty instead of supported.

 

  • Affirm me for sharing, for enduring and leave the door open for next time.  It takes courage and energy for me to share my pain.  Many days I gloss over inquiries because I’m just too worn out to spend the limited emotional energy I have left on the drama of sharing honestly.  If I risk it, it’s because I’m either desperate or I trust you.  Either way, let me know you appreciate my bravery.  Tell me that you see how hard it is and that just carrying on is an accomplishment.  Leave my heart better than you found it so I’ll be encouraged to share again.   

Brene Brown has done some amazing work in the area of shame, hurt, compassion and empathy.  I’ve found it valuable in my own valley and also instructive in serving others in theirs.  

This short video based on her work is incredibly helpful. Please take a moment to watch it:  Brene Brown on Empathy

brene-brown-on-empathy-image

 

 

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