Friday, May 12, 2017

     



     Who has earned the right to hear your story? I’ve learned the hard way over the years that there are very few people with whom I would share my most intimate concerns and worries. Most of the people with whom I have shared in the past didn’t really “get” me. I could never figure out why I felt worse after confiding in one or two until I realized that they didn’t empathize; they sympathized. When someone says to you, “Oh, you poor thing,” or “I feel so sorry for you,” they are only making things worse. Now you feel embarrassed and stupid on top of whatever you were upset about. Empathy says, “I hear you. I get it.”

      So I guess what I am saying is that sympathy can be toxic in many situations. To truly comfort someone, words must be chosen carefully and expressed gently. A new friend told me the other day that she is a grief counselor. When I told her that I have said things in the past when someone died like “I feel your pain,” she said, “That just makes the person feel guilty.” You should say, “I am here for you for whatever you need.”

     To whom can you share your marital issues? your health issues? your children’s issues? your most embarrassing moments? After my divorce, I discovered that friends really don’t always want the burden of listening. They don’t know what to say, and sometimes they don’t say the “right” thing, and that makes them feel bad too. A therapist is always best, I found, for very private conversations. 

     It has taken me years to find my very small circle of friends with whom I can share private stories. They have allowed themselves to be vulnerable with me as I have with them, and we know what to say because we have listened in good and bad times. We “get” each other. Some friends understand health concerns better than others based on their own physical issues. Other friends have had many relationship issues, so they are more attuned to the contradictions so common in those cases. Still others have dealt with children issues, so they are resourceful and happy to help because they have been there too.

    I have secrets. Everyone does. I don’t share those with anyone but The Big Guy. I just assume he gets it. I have only two or three friends with whom I share very private concerns, and they have earned a place in my circle. I trust them, and through the years, I know they will never betray that trust. The person I trusted most in my life was my father who never judged, always listened with compassion. He didn’t have answers; he just listened. I felt loved and heard, and I miss him to this day. 

     Who do you trust? How have they earned a place in your circle? Men might have more trouble with this than women, as our culture is not as forgiving when men are vulnerable. How sad is that? Most men I know keep their worries to themselves for fear of looking weak. We all have secrets, and we all have private concerns. If you have a tiny circle, consider yourself very blessed. In whose circle have you earned a place?