Monday night I received a call from a fellow therapist at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment, Andrew Mercer. He was calling for support – he was dealing with some pain and wanted to process it with me.
Here’s the tape of how things would go in the past: Listen to “problems,” point out ways to make said problems go away, get irritated that person still had problems. Could I consciously identify that this is the process that would take place? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be present.
Here’s how I changed things up: I listened to Andrew’s experience. Instead of giving solutions, I shared from my own life experience about times that I had felt the same. I shared about how I relate his feelings to my own experience in my present. I let his pain stir my pain and we were in it together.
The net result was connection, not irritation. Nothing was fixed, but we both felt more able to handle what life had to throw at us because we were in it together.
I’ve found out the hard way that my tendency (perhaps yours too?) is to “fix problems that people bring to me”. But that’s seeing it in the exact wrong way. How arrogant of me to think that they’re coming to me to find a solution they’re not smart enough to come up with. If it was as easy as figuring it out then they probably wouldn’t need me.
If I bring something up that’s painful and vulnerable my want is for a solution and a fix for my pain, but my need is to confess my heart and experience and be valued.
How often and how easy is it to point out errors of thought and behavior in others. It reminds me of the passage in Luke (6:41) when Jesus says “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
In this illustration you don’t hear Jesus telling us how to remove specks or planks from our eyes, do you? I think Jesus is trying to tell us that we’re all broken, hurt, confused, and in pain. We’re all in the same boat, and it’s our job to be co-voyagers with one another rather than trying to steer the ship.
And if your are a believing Christian this should hit home especially for you. Because we believe in a God who was the captain of the ship and became a passenger just like the rest of us for the sake of relationship and connection. Think showing your own pain and weakness is worthless to other people? Better to put on a straight face and be strong for them? Paul wrestled with this, too: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor 12:9).
Your weakness is your ticket to connection and authenticity. How can you use your weakness to connect to someone today?