Common Ground

Common Ground

You know I love quoting Brene Brown. As I was thinking about my blog post for this month, I reread this passage from her book The Gifts of Imperfection. She writes:

Compassion is not about a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

As I reflected on her words, I realized that this statement cuts both ways. It speaks to those who try to be care providers. It tells me that to be a truly compassionate person, I have to be able to recognize my own humanity including my woundedness and shame. To operate from some sort of lofty, better than thou posture is both disingenuous and unhelpful. I’m not saying I share my full story with everyone and especially not my clients. I do, on the other hand, need to enter the therapeutic relationship with a real humility that leads to real compassion.

On the other side of the coin are those who begin to open up about their struggles and are seeking help. Many of my clients ask “Raleigh, do you think I’m crazy?” or say “You must think I’m a horrible person.” It seems that it is often the nature of people to feel worthless and less-than when they begin to look squarely at themselves; what they have and have not done or what may have been done to them. This is the shame I have spoken of so often. “I didn’t make a mistake. I am a mistake!”

Though there are people you know who would never admit it (even if it would be helpful to do so), everybody has had their moments of darkness, sadness, fear, shame, and poor decision making. Remember the story in the Bible about the woman caught in adultery? “You without sin cast the first stone.” Every one of them dropped their stones and walked away. All were guilty. All were, in their own ways, indicted by their humanity.

So when you start to honestly look at yourself, don’t be caught off guard by the sense that, somehow, who you are is worse than everyone else and if anyone knew your truth, you would be damned by their judgment. The sad fact is, there are some people out there who would do just that; damn you because of your past. Thankfully, there are others you might open up to who recognize that we are all human. We are all imperfect. It’s our common legacy and we have the best chance of not being lost in that legacy when we recognize that we are not alone in it. From there we can learn that, together, as equally broken people, we have a chance to find our way to a better life – one not controlled or completely defined by the brokenness.