We like the cheerful; we encourage the pleasant; and we want the optimistic, but please, please, please don’t give us the unpleasant, the discouraged, or the anxious.
We admire the calm; we bless the fulfilled; and we desire the affectionate, but please, please, please don’t give us the annoyed, the aching, or the desperate.
We look for the happy; we long for the good; and we relish the positive, but please, please, please don’t give us the angry, the depressed, and the afraid.
Because the hard is hard and the yuck is yuck.
Because the hard isn’t easy to feel and the yuck isn’t easy to fix.
We don’t want to struggle, and we don’t want others to struggle.
We don’t want to hurt, and we don’t want others to hurt.
We don’t want to be broken, and we don’t want others to be broken.
We don’t want to be, feel, and hear what we do not like and cannot fix.
And though I am a licensed counselor and am trained to sit with the struggling, help the hurting, and bear with the broken, I (too) don’t relish in hearing the hard and feeling the yuck.
And if there’s an area in my life where I’ve most recently noticed this minimizing of the hard and this aversion to the yuck, it’s in the arena of motherhood.
A mother shares that she’s tired and overwhelmed, and I hear something along the lines of…
Oh, just enjoy the time you have because before you know it, the days will be gone and you’ll be longing to have those tired and overwhelmed days back.
A mother acknowledges that she’s worried and anxious, and I hear something along the lines of…
Oh, don’t worry about that…my kids survived and yours will too!
A mother admits that she’s feeling lonely and unfulfilled, and I hear something along the lines of…
Spring is right around the corner! As soon as the sun starts shining and you can get outside, you’ll be fine.
A mother confesses that she’s struggling with anger and depression, and I hear something along the lines of…
I bet you’re just tired. It’s tiring dealing with small children and all of their needs. Try to get some more sleep.
A mother concedes that she’s had a hard day and is at the end of her rope, and I hear something along the lines of…
Cherish these moments! They go so fast! I wish my children were small again.
Chances are (if you’re human, live with other humans, and frequent Facebook), you’ve heard/seen a variation of these well-meaning statements, received these kinds of responses, or even spoken/written these well-intended words (I know I have experienced and done all three!).
And though there is kindness and encouragement laced in each of these responses, I also hear a whole lot of minimizing, shoving, ignoring, and quick-fixing.
The mother who is tired knows that the years are short;
the mother who is worried knows that your kids survived;
the mother who is lonely knows that spring follows winter;
the mother who is depressed knows that her kids are tiring; and
the mother who is at the end of her rope knows that her children grow fast.
Now…I’m not suggesting that we should never offer hope or share a word of encouragement (we should), nor am I suggesting that we just let people wallow in their feelings, nor am I suggesting that we provide in-depth clinical counseling in the presence of the hard and the yuck (I’m not), BUT… I am suggesting that we stop down-playing, avoiding, and glossing over the other stuff we’re feeling, seeing, and hearing.
Maybe we need to bear the hard and accept their pain.
Maybe we need to normalize the yuck and share a “me too” moment.
Maybe we need to hear the hard and dig deeper.
Maybe we need to feel the yuck and offer a safe place to feel.
Maybe we need to speak into the hard and offer additional care.
Maybe we need to listen to the yuck and direct them to professional help.
Maybe we need to let people feel the hard and point them to Jesus.
Maybe we need to acknowledge that we’re not living in Eden anymore and embrace the reality that we’re living in a fallen world with fallen situations and fallen people who need to know…
There is empathy in our pain.
For because He himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:18
There is comfort in our pain.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
There is purpose in our pain.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
There is hope in our pain.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18
Maybe what we really need to do is to do what we’ve been commanded to do…
Bear one another’s burdens as to fulfill the commands of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Long-suffering love, godly wisdom, and eternal hope…we all need it.