This day and age, with so much Insta-positivity, we are told—during our darkest times—to just hang in there.
To “grow through what you go through.”
Yes, the miracle of darkness at various points in life is that the light eventually replaces it. However, when in the depths of the bleakest night, hearing watered down positive quotes can be less than helpful.
I remember my most recent season of darkness. It was one of the long, lonely stretches that plagued my 20s off and on. During the last one, I was depressed about being single, I felt like I could never be “enough,” and like I was stuck in a miserable life that I couldn’t see a way out of.
From my current perspective—joyful, filled with the excitement of being a newlywed living in a new city—I am perched high above the lows of only a short while ago. From here, I can look back and say with a confident grin, “the only way out is through.”
Yet, had I been told that during the times when I felt so broken and forsaken, I doubt it would have lent me much comfort.
Today I reached out to friend who I haven’t spoken to in a while, to wish her a happy Thanksgiving. She answered my “How’s everything with you?” honestly saying that actually, she was really struggling. She even shared with me that she was tempted to lie, that she knew that people didn’t usually want the real answer to my question.
I found myself grasping for something—anything—encouraging to say. I wanted to be able to offer her some advice to soothe her problems away. But I caught myself.
Struck by how rarely people are honest with one another, and by how often I just go about my day repeating weightless pleasantries, I stopped. Instead of offering words she didn’t ask for, I thanked her for being genuine and honest with me. As uncomfortable as it temporarily made me, I set my inspirational anecdotes aside. In place of, “Don’t worry, it will be okay!” I simply told her I was available should she ever needed a listening ear. I asked if it was okay with her if I added her to my prayers.
And I left it at that.
Sometimes all we need is to know that we aren’t alone in our darkest hours.
This holiday season, I am committed to doing a better job of loving the ones life puts in my path. I am holding myself accountable to be a better listener, and less of an advice pusher.
I do not have to fill every uncomfortable space with words. I can simply listen. I can simply pray. I can simply sit beside someone as they endure whatever life has put on their plate during the holidays or any other time.
In so doing, I hope that I will be extended the same kindness and grace when it’s my own turn again for a dark winter.