The Hard Things

Sharing the hard things with each other, makes the joyful times even sweeter.

This has been one hell of a year. When we turned the first page of 2020, there was no way we could have imagined what would come at us. It’s been rough in some way for almost all of us and every time we thought it was safe to take a breath and relax, the next problem surfaced. The struggle is very, very real and there appears to be no end in sight. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I have faith that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, even though it’s just a pinprick at the moment.

In the midst of our current worldwide calamity, there have been many struggles on a personal level for myself and many of the people I hold dear. Some of my very favorite people have faced hardships and trials unimaginable just a year ago. As for myself and my family, I know that health issues for my father weren’t on any of our agendas this year – but things like that aren’t up to us. Similarly, I’ve had many friends face their own battles, be them health, wealth, or relationally focused. I love to say that adulting sucks, but this year, I think it’s important to acknowledge the difficulty our kids are dealing with as well so I’ve 2020fied the sentiment: Humaning sucks at the moment.

Before you get the idea that this is another woe is me treatise on the bummerhood of 2020, I want to introduce you to a realization I had recently – the idea that difficulties make the good times even more gooder (one of my favorite brother-invented words).  I believe this equation is compounded when we share our struggles with a friend, spouse or family-member. 

It’s never easy to bear our soul to another human, especially not when it feels like everyone is struggling, but it’s even more important to do it now. There’s a tendency to want to enjoy our time with our friends and not be a Debbie Downer. We feel like if we bring up the trials we’re in the midst of we risk ruining what should be a respite from the yuck, so instead of reaching out and sharing our struggles with our friends, we bottle them up, put a smile on our face, and soldier on alone. Meanwhile, the baggage we carry becomes heavier until it eventually breaks our back.

I want to flip the script on this tendency. I want us to learn to focus on the realization that allowing someone else to help us leads to a more intimate, fulfilling and ebullient relationship. I truly believe that when we come through adversity, the joy at the other end of the struggle is sweeter. And when we’ve included others in our battle, they share in that increased jubilation. Sharing the load makes it easier to shoulder and sharing the victory spreads the joy around.

So what keeps us from sharing our burdens? You could probably list a million different reasons, but I think they all boil down to two things: pride and fear. It’s a scary proposition to bear our soul to another person, especially one you have love and respect for. Couch that with our pride multiplying the fear of being wrong, disapointing our friend, being rejected for our weakness and even being ashamed of having a hard time, and it’s easy to see why we often hunker down and become an island unto ourselves instead of reaching out when life throws us for a loop. 

How sad that we increase the weight of our burden, rob ourselves of an opportunity to forge stronger bonds and multiply our (and others) joy  because of fear and pride. There’s a faulty idea floating around humanity that sharing our struggles is a form of weakness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is strength in recognizing our need for help and reaching out to others when we are struggling. It takes courage to bear one’s soul, but it is imperative that we do it. And that we are a safe place for our loved ones to bear theirs. It’s often said that it takes a village to raise a child, I posit that the same is true for maintaining our mental health.

Of course we don’t really need an entire village, but we need at least one other person that will come alongside us, offer us support, encouragement, advice, admonishment when it’s warranted and whatever else we need to make it to the other side of our stormy sea. That very same circle of support will get to enjoy your safe passage, your sense of accomplishment and your unabashed joy that results from your weathering the storm. 

The next time you find yourself struggling, I challenge you to unashamedly reach out to at least one friend. Don’t let fear elongate your suffering; instead swallow your pride and seek out a confidant. If you don’t, you may feel like you’re protecting your friend from negativity, but in reality you’re denying them an opportunity to share in your joy at the conclusion of your trial. I don’t want to do that, do you?

Life is sweeter when shared with others, especially in 2020.

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