bear one (1)

In an individualized culture, we learn to make our own way, to bear our own burdens, and to loathe asking for help. The most stressful parts of trip planning for me is finding a ride to the airport and finding someone to keep my dog.

Asking for help is uncomfortable simply because self sufficiency is a deeply rooted American value, and we aren’t practiced at relying on others. Most of us can’t stand feeling like we “owe someone,” either.

Whenever I’m uncomfortable asking for help with something logistical, like the airport ride, Mike reminds me how quickly I’d say yes if the roles were reversed.

But here’s the thing: I’m willing to help, but I still have to be asked, most of the time. My schedule and plans don’t have enough margin for me to think proactively about how I can offer my time or help.

This verse haunts me sometimes, because it doesn’t say, “Say yes when someone asks for help.” It says, “bear one another’s burdens.”

For someone who’s had an agenda since I could walk, this doesn’t come easily to me. I usually call it “drive” or “ambition,” but it can also be selfishness.

I have room to grow on both sides. I’ll do anything I can to carry my burdens entirely on my own, to avoid admitting weakness to even my closest people. On the other hand, I’m usually too focused on my own needs and priorities to proactively ask those same people how I can help bear their burdens before they ask me. In all likelihood, they’ll never ask if I don’t offer first.

If I’m uncomfortable asking for a silly ride to the airport, how will I ever let anyone help with the weightier things, the ones threatening to crush me?

Here’s how I think most of us feel about community and friends:

  • We want to be fully loved, but fear being fully known.
  • We’re willing to help, if it fits within our busy schedules.
  • We don’t want to ask for help unless we’re desperate.
  • We want close friends, but we also want privacy and space – we don’t want them to look to closely.
  • We love to laugh and celebrate with people, but crying together is awkward.
  • We want to carry our own burdens, and carry theirs when it’s convenient.
  • Not only do we not want help, we don’t even want anyone to know that we have burdens.

I’m tired of patting myself on the back for helping people with things that don’t matter, and leaving the heavy things for them to carry alone. I’m tired of keeping such a busy schedule that I feel interrupted by a phone call.

There’s a flip side to this, one I feel strongly about: we can’t bear everyone’s burdens. Energy and time are limited resources. I’m just tired of using them all up on my own stuff, bearing burdens I could really use some help carrying and keeping the people whose burdens I should be sharing at arm’s length.

I have no idea how to start shifting this, but like with most things, I think it starts small and it starts with vulnerability. If I want people to trust me to help carry their burdens, and trust me when I say I want to, I have to go first.

I have to ask for help with the burdens I’m carrying. I have to overcome the fear that they won’t want to help or will think less of me. It’s time to stop hiding and make myself available to carry and be carried.

This post is part of a 31 day series on love over fear in relationships. To read the other posts in this series, head here.

the burdens we carry and ignore

love and sacrifice

My husband and I celebrated our sixth anniversary over the weekend. For the past few years, we’ve set aside an entire day to spend together. We choose some fun things to do (okay, it’s mostly places to eat,) but we leave wide swaths of time open purely for conversation- the entire day is an ongoing conversation.

It’s loosely structured around a few things: highlights from the past year, challenges from the past year, what we love and appreciate about each other, and areas for growth.

I suppose it could backfire to talk about the less than perfect aspects of our marriage on a celebratory day, but we’ve found it worthwhile to use that day to celebrate our marriage and work on it.

We take the entire day for all of this to casually unfold. This year more than ever, the conversation kept turning toward the future – dreams, hopes, plans. It seems we’re real life adults now – many of the “someday” things we discussed our first and second years of marriage are fast becoming things to act on and move toward.

We faced old patterns that continually rise up, little daily shortcomings that slowly and steadily wear our patience. We faced the fact that we have not become perfect people in the past year. We faced the ways in which our visions for the future don’t align. We faced our own selfishness, the places where we haven’t even seen each other in the midst of our own pursuits.

We also laughed a bunch. We gave words to the daily kindnesses that work like a balm, soothing the burns of everyday life.

We remembered how grateful we are for a haven of a marriage, a place to come for rest and comfort when we’re hurt and burdened and discouraged by our work and friends and strangers and the internet. Despite our very different personalities and dreams, we still see each other first and foremost in our vision for the future – the rest is in the periphery. That’s a nice thing to say, and I’m just grateful that it’s true.

The longer we do this, the more I see the sacrificial nature of love. The wedding industry and culture in general would have us believe that love is about self fulfillment- but anyone who has been at it for awhile would tell you it’s more about self denial.

Love costs us something. The truly rewarding things in life always do.

This post is part of a 31 day series on love over fear in relationships. To read the other posts in the series, head here.

Weekend links

October 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

weekend links

As the weekend comes to a close, a few thoughtful and lovely things I’ve seen online loosely related to love over fear:

TBW.FEAR

More thoughts about this idea in the “Control Freak” post. But today – let’s take it a little easier, give ourselves grace, and practice open hands where we’re tempted to clench fists. Who’s with me?

This post is part of a 31 day series on love over fear in relationships. To read the other posts in this series, head here.

the fear of being misunderstood

My eyes pop open as the Saturday sun streams in, and embarrassment and shame color my face and plant a pit in my stomach.

What did they think I meant when I said that?

I didn’t do anything scandalous. I didn’t drink too much and say the wrong thing. I didn’t even technically embarrass myself.

But I feel embarrassed all the same, as I replay the evening’s conversations back like a transcript, as though the dinner party conversation is being examined in a court of law.

I’m comfortable in social settings, and quite enjoy them, especially when there’s an opportunity for meaningful conversation. It’s the post event hours that drain me, the wondering how I was perceived and fearing the worst.

There’s always something I said that, upon further examination, sounds stupid or arrogant or insensitive or gossipy. To have left the words just hanging out there, impossible to take back, makes me feel exposed and ashamed.

I should note, if it’s not obvious, that these post examinations are overly dramatic. The “terrible” thing I said that might reveal me as an imperfect human is rarely actually that terrible.

When I ask Mike about it or frantically text friends to apologize, they usually don’t remember, or they assure me that no, it did not come across “like that.”

Underlying these regrets is the fear of being misunderstood.

I want to be understood, but as the best version of myself. I don’t want people’s impressions of me to be based on something I shouldn’t have said, or on my grittier, more human side, the side that makes mistakes.

I heard something a few years ago that I try to remember in these moments of regret, and Mike reminds me often:

“The people you worry about what they think of you – they don’t think about you much at all.”

Not because they don’t care but because they’ve got their own lives and insecurities. They’re probably lying in bed that Saturday wondering how they were perceived. (No? Just my brand of neurotic?)

Treating social events like a court case, where I’m being examined and will surely be found guilty, of something, is excruciating. So I’ve tried to shift my focus away from being understood to understanding.

How can I make space for friends to be themselves, to feel seen and heard, and yes, understood?

How can I love them, instead of treating them like a jury?

Do you fear being misunderstood? How do you handle it?