Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Lesson in a Question

Someone asked me a question that caught me off guard. Considering our conversation, the question was not out of line and my answering it wouldn't have revealed anything that can't be found in my writings, but still it gave me pause. Writing about my life and having people read it is one thing, but saying the words across a dinner table is much more intimate and vulnerability always has the potential to freeze me. In a brief second, I had to decide if I would respond, "I'd rather not say," or simply answer her question and move on.

Discretion is absolutely necessary. Not everyone needs to know everything and not everyone should have our trust. Plus, we have been gifted with a support system purposefully. There are some discussions that are best if only had with those closest to us. However, our decision to reserve our pain for ourselves does more to reserve us. That decision holds us in solitude, shame, and guilt. Ultimately, it holds us back. We cling to the side effects of our pain by ourselves because we're convinced that if others knew they would use it against us, treat us differently, or love us less. Essentially, we believe that if others knew the cause or extent of our pain then they would view us through the same judgmental and harsh lens we use to see ourselves.

The next time you are afraid to open up consider whether you are projecting your own judgments on others. Is your fear appropriately placed? Has that person said or done anything to warrant your fear? Is it the actions of another that has made you so sure that you can't trust? Do you imagine someone using your pain or your decision to trust against you? Is your fear preventing you from progressing and getting healthy?

I considered this woman's question, this woman who I have known for quite some time, but didn't know very well. This woman I had never shared anything remotely personal with prior. This woman who hadn't done anything to earn my suspicions or distrust. This woman who asked me a question that she could find the answer to by reading about me online, but preferred a face-to-face conversation. I looked at this woman with a slate that wasn't tarnished with my defensive imagination nor the hurtful actions of others and decided to answer her. I didn't regret it in the seconds following and I don't regret it now. My world didn't crumble. She didn't treat me differently. She didn't look at me through the judgmental and harsh lens I use for myself. She did nothing to confirm the horrible things I have told myself. She merely heard me.

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