Our culture tends to idolize the macho, the tough, the strong, those that never share or display their wounded hearts. We instinctively hide our vulnerable parts in order to keep those tender and wounded places safe.
This is sometimes a necessity because there are many times and places where it would not be safe to let our vulnerability show. But when we find those moments of safety where we can risk letting down our guards and letting others in, our vulnerability often becomes a magnet to others who discover in us the freedom to expose their own vulnerability. Giving each other glimpses behind the masks that we so often wear allows us to see a bit of the true beauty that each human being holds.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” ~Mister Rogers
I am saddened today by the news of (yet another) shooting at a school that has left many dead, including many young children. It is hard to comprehend why someone would do something like this, although it’s clear to me that the shooter must have been driven by some deep pain of his own.
“Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” ~Ecclesiastes 7:3-4
We were discussing Biblical Wisdom Literature today in class, which includes the book of Ecclesiastes. In general, this book conveys a rather disillusioned and pessimistic view of the meaning of life, or the lack thereof. It was obvious from the class discussion that many people find this book disturbing, and I have my moments when I’d agree.
I also have plenty of times when I’m grateful for its inclusion in the canon because I find it comforting.
“When you refrain from habitual thoughts and behavior, the uncomfortable feelings will still be there. They don’t magically disappear. Over the years, I’ve come to call resting with the discomfort ‘the detox period,’ because when you don’t act on your habitual patterns, it’s like giving up an addiction. You’re left with the feelings you were trying to escape. The practice is to make a wholehearted relationship with that.” ~Pema Chödrön (from Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, page 36)
I get a weekly email with Pema’s Heart Advice of the week. The above quote was the one I received today. (It can also be found in blog form on Shambhala Publications website.)
I know this feeling of being in the detox period well. As I have been working on shifting patterns in my life that are no longer helpful, I frequently encounter these detox period where my emotions have been triggered but I’m choosing not to engage in my usual coping behaviors. Instead, I am left to sit with those feelings that I normal try to escape, minimize, or at least distract myself from feeling.
My spiritual journey has not been a straight line. No where close to it, in fact. I’ve investigated many different religious and spiritual traditions, and I have found value in each one. Each one has given me new ways to view life and new tools to help me live it better.
But no matter how much value I find in other faiths, I am always drawn back to Christianity despite my issues with the way that it often manifests in the world. I’m sure some of this is a result of having grown up in this tradition and being surrounded by a culture that is immersed in this worldview. That’s not all it is, though.
“It is not judgment that breaks the heart, but mercy and love.” ~Hasidic lore
I came across this quote tonight on Facebook, and it seems to sum up my experience of the day in an unexpected way. It’s been a day filled with blessings—full of mercy of love—that took me completely by surprise. And I’ve been on the verge of tears much of the day.
This didn’t make sense to me until I saw this bit of Hasidic lore, and it clicked.