wounded

Part 2 – Testing the Waters and Vulnerability

October 7, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 7: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 
 

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:

  1. “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.
  2. “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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

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My Briar Patch of Cynicism

Photo credit: Creative Commons

Photo credit: Creative Commons

I can’t trace the exact path that led me into the briar patch, but I can certainly remember some of the stepping-stones. Weariness of a broken world, wounds inflicted by loved ones, and although my heart is always bent toward Jesus, I wanted  to distance myself from a group of people who had become more defined by hateful words than the acts of love and acceptance that should define the word “Christian”.

Photo cred: Ricardo Gutierrez

Photo cred: Ricardo Gutierrez

It was uncomfortable at first, trying to manuever my way through the thorny vines so as not to get stuck. The vines slowly became tangled branches and formed a dense thicket where I could hide. As the branches surrounded around me, I felt protected, safe from predators. And after a while, I began to see a

tragic beauty in my discontentment,

Photo credit: Luis Soares

Photo credit: Luis Soares

and although the dense vegetation blocked out the sun, it also provided shade. I found that it was easier to bed down and rest in the coolness than to try and claw my way out of the thicket. My hard began to harden without the warmth of the sun. My friends who tried to pull me out were sometimes injured by the barbs. Other friends were happy I was in the briar patch, because they were living there, too, and they were glad to have company. A few unfortunate friends were injured by just brushing by, as they got stung by the surrounding nettles – a sting that does not fade quickly. The briar patch became a lonely, cold, isolated place, and I longed for the sun on my face.

So now I am now trying to make my way out of the briar patch – 

I am lifting my head out of the shadows and into the sunlight. I am trying to blaze a trail out of the tangled vines, but the thorns are sharp, and I can assure you, I am not getting out unscathed.

image

 

One of the tools that is helping me to clear the path is an author named Sarah Bessey. She paints a beautiful word picture of playing the music of cynicism like practicing on a piano, and the struggle to learn a new song of  goodness and truth, gentleness and beauty, faithfulness and kindness.  She proclaims, “I won’t desecrate beauty with cynicism any more. I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath. We’ll practice the ways of Jesus over and over, until the scales fall from our eyes and our ears begin to hear.”  You can read her whole post here. (It is part of my new favorite book, Jesus Feminist, of which she is the author.)

photo credit: Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons

photo credit: Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons

So if you feel stuck in the briars of cynicism – if have been wounded, if you are disillusioned, if you have lost hope, you are not alone. But it’s time to break free – wash off your scrapes, bind your wounds, and cut yourself loose from the tangles. Step out of the dark thicket and into the sunshine. Share your story. Look for rays of hope – women who are telling their stories of love and change, people of faith who are working for social justice, wounded warriors who are ready to walk with you, and help you blaze a new trail.

It’s time, sisters and brothers, it’s time.