So yesterday I wrote about our desire for community, the lesson I learned about making my life count, and the clues I look for when searching for someone with whom I might share my heart. You can read part 1 here. So how do you test the waters when searching for community, for someone with whom to share your heart?
3. Testing the Waters.
In my search for balance, I have learned that while it’s important to share your story, not everyone is worthy of hearing it.
So when you think, “Hmmmm. This is someone I could possibly share my heart with.” The next thing I usually do is to test the waters. I used to just blurt out my story to anyone and everyone, but I learned that not everyone is worthy of my story.
“Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding . . .” Stephen Russel
Being vulnerable and sharing your story can be scary. It is scary.
(I want to talk with you who are so afraid, or who have been so wounded that you have decided to build a wall and never share. Maybe those you trust have let you down, and you have decided. “That will never happen again.” I know that place – you feel safe, and if you never share, no one can hurt you. I want you to know this, if you build a wall, not only are you keeping out the possiblity of pain, you wall yourself off from you, and the possiblity of connection.)
So I test the waters by sharing a piece of my story. Which piece depends on with whom I am sharing. I try to listen to my heart, and
the heart often whispers, so you need to listen carefully.
When I get the courage to share my story, I see the following reactions:
- “Oh” or a blank look, and then they make a joke or change the subject. This is not a person who is ready to hear any more of my story.
- “I know just what you mean” and then they proceed to tell me how that have been through the very same thing, only much worse, trying to one-up my story. I don’t have the energy to mess with that.
- Some people are so shocked, they don’t know how to respond. If someone has a need to hold me in a certain light and doesn’t want to hear about my mistakes or my flaws, well, they are living in dream land, because I am all about revealing my flaws. I find that this makes many people uncomfortable, not because they want me to be perfect, but because they have a deep fear of admitting (or sometimes even looking at) their own perfections.
- The person who hears part of my story, especially when I talk about my marriage or parenting mistake, and feels shame for me, then sits there awkwardly, not knowing what to say. Then I have to make them feel better. No, that is not someone with whom I will share my heart. I am learning to become friends with my shame, and that is excrutiating for many people, because shame begats shame, and when our shame is reflected back to us, it can be unbearable.
- The person who tries to fix it, make it better, or make a cliche’ out of my story.
So what do I look for?
I look for someone who can connect with my story. Someone who is brave enough to sit with the shame, or the pain, and just let it be. Someone who doesn’t run from it, or try to cover it or fix it.
Someone who says, “I see you, you didn’t scare me off. I may not understand where you’ve been, but I’m just going to walk alongside you.”
I have to be honest, those people are few and far between. But when you find them, they are pricelss gems, and worth hanging on to.
So what does this look like?
Say I meet someone, and they have some of the clues I mentioned in my last post, and we decide to get together for coffee. I don’t sit down and say, “I’m so glad you joined me for coffee. How about this weather? Hey I just wanted you to know that I was abused as a child, I am a Christian but I havent attended church regularly in years, sometimes I feel like my life motto is “I hate people”, I have been through the 12-steps as a recovering bulemic and survivor of sexual abuse, I betrayed my husband and almost killed my marriage, my son moved away once to become a drug dealer, and I sometimes feel like lying to make myself look better in they eyes of others. And you?”
Embarrassingly enough, there was a time when I was so raw that I would berbally throw up on almost everyone I met. But I have learned that not everyone is worthy of my story, and that some pieces are meant to be shared with only the most precious. In conversation, I will just put out a little bread crumb, “Such and such happened when our marriage was going through a really tough time.” “We had a tough time when my son was using drugs.” “Sometimes I just don’t feel like God is listening.” And then I see if they follow the trail. If they do, then I put out another crumb. If they don’t, then I listen to their story, and go from there.
Brene Brown has done some amazing work around the concept of vulnerability. I love her words:
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are