On Being Human

It makes me sad that in our culture we glorify the “brave face”. We are uncomfortable with suffering; we don’t like to look at death and we don’t like to look at pain. How was your day? we ask. How have you been? And if we are honest enough to say we had a really bad day, or it’s been hard lately, we feel compelled to follow up with saying it’s part of the job, or that’s how life is, or put some positive spin on it, like how we’re learning some good life lessons or in the big picture it’s not all that important. We might say “others have had it worse” and try to diminish what we feel. We put on the smile and show how much faith we have, how brave and how “strong” we are. You’re a fighter! people say admiringly, as if fighting against suffering is what we’re all supposed to do - not accepting, living and embracing it as much a part of experience as our greatest joys.

How many people carry their grief and hurt with them and can’t find healing because they never allow themselves time to live and walk through their pain, both with themselves and others? Because they feel compelled to be a “fighter”, get up, smile and move on? Do we do this for others’ sake? Or for our own? Being human means that we experience all of the facets of existence - suffering as well as joy, failure as well as success. Why are we all so afraid to be human?

It takes more strength to be vulnerable than to be strong. Pain and failure are not weakness, and a brave face is not strength. It takes immense courage to show someone else our suffering - to let them see into the darkest corners of our lives, to cry with another person and tell them we’re hurt, or sad, and let it sit right there where it is - without diminishing it or making it ok for ourselves or anyone else. I think this is where healing begins. We may cry when we’re alone and vent our emotions, but crying with someone we love and trust and receiving their compassion and empathy is like a balm for the soul.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
— Washington Irving