Last week’s article about Human Trafficking was not the only difficult conversation I’ve had recently.
Within the last two weeks I’ve talked with trusted friends about:
- being picky in your friendships
- why I choose to homeschool
- taking in refugees
- specific beliefs about God and heaven (including eternal marriage, sin, and being saved)
- mental health issues
- the concept of attractiveness
- terminal illness
(You get the picture.)
It isn’t easy…
Honestly, sometimes it’s overwhelming. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I hope I’ve said enough. Sometimes I worry I’ve said too much. Even with the people I trust!!!
Sometimes my lack of education or expertise becomes glaringly apparent.
Sometimes I just want to take a break! (And talk about who will win this season of The Bachelor, or how I met my husband).
And all of those feelings are completely valid!
The question is: will you let that stop you?
Should we never talk about something unless we are 100% versed in all of its intricacies? Never let ourselves get red in the face? What is lost in doing so?
Or, rather, what does getting comfortable with the uncomfortable accomplish?
- Truer friendships. The more someone proves themselves to be a safe space to learn and grow, the more you can be yourself around them.
- Stronger love. As Sam Keen said, “We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” My relationship with God, my spouse, and my friends grows when I royally screw up, yet they love me anyway.
- Deeper knowledge. This is one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about interdenominational conversations. Learning what I don’t know strengthens my roots in what I do know, and it gives me a huge amount of respect for another person’s story and perspective. We are all different, but that isn’t a fault; it’s an opportunity to learn something new.
- Added patience and compassion. The more you get to know someone on a first name basis, versus a label or stereotype derived from their point of view, the more patience you have for sitting with them in their feelings, even when you know you disagree.
- Greater self-awareness. When you sit in discomfort, you are almost forced to confront exactly what you are feeling and why. Rather than brush it off or numb out, you learn to tune in to your internal compass.
Or, in the words of Brene Brown:
I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.”
Allow me to reiterate: “Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity…”
Where do I sign up?
5 Steps to Sitting with Discomfort
- Either assume the best, or just don’t assume. What I’m saying is, leave the labels out of it. Sometimes we assume we know what direction the conversation will go or where someone is coming from based on a stereotype: political party, ethnicity, gender, age, etc… Or even based on a popular opinion! Instead, give people the benefit of the doubt, and allow yourself to see where it is going.
- Get to know the person behind the point. If the conversation goes somewhere you don’t like, or someone says something you find completely ridiculous! — At least listen long enough to find out why they believe what they believe. This can often be so telling, and it allows you to disagree with compassion. Get to know people as a person and as a friend, and you will see that the issues you once thought to be black and white, may be more complex than you thought. This doesn’t mean you have to change your opinion; so don’t let fear get the better of you! It just means that you choose to come from a place a love when your values don’t align. #WWJD
- Get to know yourself! What are you completely rooted in, and what are you willing to be open-minded about? There will come a point when you know everything you need to know to decide where you stand Sometimes it’s best to make those boundaries clear, sometimes it’s best to keep quiet rather than rehash them, and sometimes you know there is room for change. The ball is in your court. Just get to know yourself well enough to feel comfortable making uncomfortable decisions.
- Learn to apologize freely, and to admit when you are wrong. In any uncomfortable situation, whether it’s a disagreement, a discussion of boundaries, or an outright confrontation, learn to be objective about yourself. Sadly, none of us is right ALL of the time. The more you can humbly admit when you are wrong, the more it matters when you decide to plant your flag.
- Make teamwork your go-to, rather than blame. At the risk of being redundant to one of my core beliefs, it is critically important to come at any uncomfortable situation from an angle of ME AND YOU vs. THE PROBLEM, rather than ME vs. YOU. Take a solution-based approach. In the end, the real opponent is the adversary; not your neighbor.
So, give it a try!
The more we expose ourselves to the possibility of discomfort, the more comfortable we grow with being uncomfortable. And I believe it’s worth it. How about you??
Here’s to the quiet courage it takes to know both the good and the hard in this world, and love the experience anyway.