We have all experienced pain. All kinds of pain. Physical, emotional pain. Pain that we have felt like we deserved and pain that was completely unexpected. It’s hard to say which is harder to endure or which is easier to get through. They each have their unique hurt.
When I worked in the corporate world, it was all business. Emotions were checked at the door and you had to treat everyone professionally. What’s unique about my job in ministry is that people and relationships are first, the job at hand is second. It makes sense when living out your faith as your profession. It gets personal. You greet families as they are coming in to plan their mother’s funeral. Members tell you their personal struggles while on the phone. In many ways this line of work fits me much better than having to check my emotions at the door. Yet, in many ways, it beats me up.
Recently I was blindsided by hurt. In the midst of a conversation, I thought I would naturally be asked to help. I wasn’t. Someone else was. I was caught so off guard; I couldn’t speak. I’m not one who can hide her emotions, so naturally the tears began and the group knew I was hurting. I didn’t know what to say or why it hurt so much. I got flustered and I got silent.
Needless to say, it was obvious the next day that I was upset and crying. Someone reached out. “I can tell you are upset. Talk to me …” These nine words opened the door for me to speak. I had almost 24 hours to think about what had gotten me so upset and to put the emotions that surprised me into words.
Now let me sidetrack here by saying, I may be good at putting me thoughts into words on a computer screen or by using a pen and paper, but using my voice is not a strength of mine. Conversation around conflict gives me anxiety. I stubble on my words and often leave the conversation wishing I had said a whole lot differently. I read and re-read text messages when someone doesn’t reply wondering what I should have said differently and worrying about whether or not the other person is going to reply. Verbally I am a clutz and really struggle finding the strength to put a voice to my pain.
In my ministry, I have tried to default to my strong language – writing. It doesn’t work. Pen on paper, while therapeutic and dependable, does not build relationships. It leaves so much to interpretation. It lacks voice tone, eye contact and body language.
Back to my recent unexpected sucker punch. I’ve been crying for a day straight. Feeling ridiculous and just plain emotional. Feeling selfish for being so hurt, when clearly the other person is going through so much more. How dare I bring my insecurities to this other person who is fighting for their own life, literally. But they reached out to me. The weak reaches out to the strong. I know this person loves me. I know he cares about me and I love and reciprocate all those feelings. So when my kids were asleep, I picked up the phone. I put myself out there – not knowing what I would say when he answered the phone. “Hi.” “Mel, talk to me. What’s going on?”
The flood gates open. Tears rolled down my face while I spoke all the silent thoughts I had processed over the last 24 hours. He didn’t get mad with me. He listened. He loved me through all the stuff I unloaded. He shared his own thoughts and explained how surprised he was that I was upset. And you know what? I felt better. The sharing validated that he loves me. Speaking my hurt allowed me to feel heard.
It doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes you open yourself up to someone who rejects you. What I am starting to learn is that talking about the hurt is like pouring water on a fire. Whether the other person responds positively or not, you stop playing and re-playing the conversation in your mind. It’s no longer burning out of control, taking over your thoughts. You lay the issue to rest. Maybe it’s resolved and you feel so much better. Maybe it’s not. But at least you go to sleep that night, knowing you gave it your all.
Talk! Be brave and talk. Don’t hide behind a text message, a pen, email or your tears. Ask the questions that keep you up at night. Keep showing up. I guarantee, if the other person cares for you, it will be worth it and so much more.