The other day my daughter came to me in tears — troubled, sad, crushed by the weight of a friend’s careless words. I saw the pain on her face, the breaking of her voice as she bravely and vulnerably shared why she was upset. She opened up, exposing her hurt to me, expecting the embrace of her mom.
Instead I told her she needed to get over it and move on. I told her she shouldn’t let things bother her so much and that it really wasn’t a big deal and then sent her on her way.
Of course that’s not what I did!
I took her in my arms, gave her as long of an embrace as she needed and then looked in her eyes and spoke the truth of who she is into her heart and mind. I let her share all of her feelings, made sure she got it all out and then told her how much I loved her.
She opened up to me because she expected a safe place. Over the ten years of her life, trust has built between us. From skinned knees to worried thoughts, sibling squabbles and hurt friendships, I’ve been there through it all.
One of my goals as a mother is to be the safest place for my children. I want them to have the freedom to share all of their thoughts and feelings and not be ashamed of any of them.
But here’s where this is going. Why do I not do the same for myself?
I’ve grown accustomed to telling myself to get over it and move on — that I shouldn’t let things bother me so much and it’s really not a big deal. Then I give myself a pep talk and send my thoughts and feelings on their way.
I’ve done this for years. I haven’t always been the safest and softest place for my own thoughts and feelings. What comes naturally to do for my children doesn't come so naturally to do for myself.
Connection requires knowing, right? We cannot connect with someone if we do not truly know them. Isn’t connection, at its rawest, the opportunity to be known and seen (even when we’re not at our best) and then loved and understood despite of it? Sadly, it’s likely most of us walk around not honestly knowing and loving ourselves… myself included!
Eckhart writes, “No one can know God who does not first know himself.” (And I might also add — No one can know others…)
Similarly, St. Augustine in his famous, Confessions, writes, “How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?” (And I might also add — How can you draw close to others?)
These past 6 months or so, I’ve been on a journey inward to give myself permission to feel.
In his book, Emotionally, Healthy, Spirituality, Peter Scazzero writes, “Allow yourself to experience the full weight of your feelings. Allow them without censoring them. Then you can reflect and thoughtfully decide what to do with them. Trust God to come to you through them… The issue is not by any means to blindly follow our feelings, but to acknowledge them as a part of the way God communicates to us… The journey of genuine transformation to emotionally healthy spirituality begins with a commitment to allow yourself to feel.”
As feelings of loneliness, anger, sadness or worry hit me, I’m slowing down. I’m taking time, just like I would do for one of my children, to stop what I’m doing, listen to the hurt and allow it to surface. Then I’m letting God direct me to His Truth and remind me how loved I am. Just like I don’t judge my children for the feelings they experience, I’m trying to offer myself the same safe spot to land.
Jesus commands us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” As. You. Love. Yourself.
If someone had secret access to our thought life - would they think we love ourselves? What Jesus is saying here is that we only have the capacity to love others as much as we love ourselves. We only have the capacity to truly connect with others if we are truly connected with ourselves.
So here’s the thing. It’s hard work. Taking a daily inventory of our feelings, pausing to reflect on roots and triggers, sitting in tough, yucky stuff… none of that sounds fun. But it’s worth it and it’s necessary. I think one of the steps, maybe the most necessary step, to finding true connection with others is to FIRST find true connection with ourselves. Let’s reveal it all to ourselves. And then take the time to listen, process, pray and love ourselves despite ourselves.
“The brave baring of all the broken in their brokenness can offer the miracle of communion. Never be afraid of being a broken thing.”― Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way