Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected.
-Rachel Naomi Remen
When we see a friend struggling, our natural instinct is to help or fix. It is deeply uncomfortable - even painful sometimes - to see someone we care about hurting. Our natural inclination is to give advice or to believe we are bearing their pain with them by suggesting we've had similar struggles.
I have wonderful friends - and I'm so grateful to be able to turn to them when I am hurting. It is always a relief and incredibly helpful when they ask me open, honest questions, like: "Did you ever feel this way before?" "When you say you are scared, what do you mean?" or "What I hear you saying is X, is this true for you?"
When met here, I feel heard and seen. I also feel confident that I already know the answer. I do not feel broken or flawed, which is how I sometimes feel when a friend, no matter how well meaning, says something like: "I think this is about your fear of abandonment" or "You have a pattern of doing x." It may sound compassionate on the surface, but I suspect it's really just another way to analyze a situation about which nobody else could really understand. Or to attempt to answer or solve my struggle for me. But how could any of us have the power to do that for another? Nobody has walked in my shoes before, nor I in theirs. We are each unique in the way we feel and move through this life. How can anyone really know what I'm feeling or struggling with or vice versa? I can walk with someone when they bravely come to me from a place of vulnerability, but I can't know what their experience is like for them.
Listening openly and without any desire to judge or fix is a deeply spiritual practice. It is gift to meet people with genuine love, openness and a trust that we are all our own best teachers. A trust that all of the wisdom any of us needs is already inside us -- and the best we can ever do is gently coax it out of each other with loving, open questions, not answers.
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