on being human

It makes me sad that in our culture we glorify the “brave face”. We are so uncomfortable with suffering. 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 it’s all about winning and losing.

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 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.

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?

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