I had the privilege of sitting with a beautiful young man in his twenties and listening to some of his struggles. Side by side, I looked at him and he looked straight ahead, with an occasional, brief, and shy sideways glance to meet my eyes.
He shared about the falling away of a relationship, the loss of a connection with a child he cherished deeply, depression, anxiety, eventually losing his job and the difficulty he experienced entering social situations.
"It's hard to talk about it all", he said. And then he laughed, saying, "But that all seemed to come out pretty easily." And then I laughed too. A sweet moment of connection amidst the sharing of pain.
He told me that's why he liked spending time mostly with one particular friend of his, because this friend just took him as he was, didn't try to fix him or offer unwanted advice. It felt safe to share with that friend because he knew that he would be neither judged nor rejected for his experience.
There is something special we can do for others in emotional pain. A gift that seems like nothing but is really everything. We can be a space in which another human being can rest. A space in which someone else can experience what it's like to be seen fully, heard fully, and accepted fully in that moment exactly as they are. A space in which someone feels absolutely safe to share their heart without fear.
When we sit with someone in pain and jump in with answers, ideas, strategies, or advice, we do a disservice to that person by cutting off the full expression of what they're going through. Mostly, we do this because their experience is making us uncomfortable, triggering our own unmet shadow. That's why following our own path and exploring our own pain is the only place we can ever begin being of true service to others.
Hidden within our pain, within every struggle, every challenge and every bit of darkness, is a doorway into the light. It's in having the courage to allow ourselves and others to meet that darkness fully that the doorway reveals itself and we realise that healing was always here.
To every young man who is struggling and in pain: I trust your path as I have come to trust my own and pray that one day you will know for yourself the perfection I see when I look in your eyes.
Love and courage,