Now, how many of you get all bristly when I say that? I know, when someone tells you to not be selfish it feels like an attack on your character. THIS IS NOT THAT POST!
What I mean when I say "Don't be selfish" is this...
Don't be selfish with your story.
Don't be selfish and keep it to yourself as though it only impacts you.
Don't selfishly hold all your pain inside, refusing to let people be present with you in your journey- even if it's dark.
Don't hide from the world while you try to figure out how to pretty-up your story so that people will be convinced you are "okay".
Don't be selfish with the trials you face.
Don't be selfish with the wisdom you gain from the pains of sanctification.
Do you see what I mean, now, when I say "Don't be selfish"?
This is not a character attack. Quite the opposite. It is a call for all of us broken, hurting, messy humans to band together and SHARE our lives with one another. It's in the sharing that beauty is planted, watered, and cultivated, only to be harvested at the right time with a complete spectrum of emotional nutrients. The sharing is where the Body of Christ is given the opportunity to be obedient in the Spirit. Where those of us who have been grafted to the Vine are now able to share the fruit we are being blessed with.
But my story isn't important. Shame on you! Your story IS important! Vitally important to someone who has just been blindsided with devastating news and is grasping for something to hold onto... something like HOPE. You could offer that person that hope. THAT is grossly important to the one who can't breathe because they've been sucker-punched with the news you received and have been living with for some time now. YOU have survived the news and are a walking testament of God's faithfulness. Someone needs that in their life. Will you share it?
But our journeys are different. Correct. Our individual journeys are different but our emotions are the same. The pain is the same. The loneliness is the same. The isolation is the same. The relationship shifts are the same. Are they identical? Nope. But there are so many similarities between different journeys. Talk with anyone suffering through something and you will find common emotional ground. Will you seek out that common ground?
But I'm a private person. Perhaps. However, this life is not solely about you. It is a shared experience between all human beings. We are each impacted by the other. Have you ever been the recipient of a paid forward Starbucks purchase? Or kept awake at night by an obnoxious party next door? See, we are sharing this thing called life with other humans. Sure, some seem more decent than others but all are important. All have worth in the eyes of their Creator. If you think you can avoid sharing your story because you're a private person, think again. This life has a way of drawing you into the places beyond your comfort zone. I encourage you to risk your privacy in the hopes of helping just one person be able to bear their trial better.
But I don't want to burden them. Okay, I get that. I even appreciate that. However, by keeping your story to yourself you are removing any chance they had to show you that they can, in fact, care about you and your story. You may even unknowingly stifle an urging the Spirit has given them. Is there a right time and place and even a proper way to share? Yes. If their story has taken a recent turn for the worse, this probably isn't the time to unload your story with that person. If they are asking "How are you?" then I suggest giving them a bite-sized portion of your story and see where that takes the two of you. People will surprise you.
Why am I saying "don't be selfish"? Good question. I have been a cancer mom for 8 months now. I have born a burden I never dreamed would descend upon my family. We did things right. We ate cleaner than most people we know. We limited the known toxins in our 60+ yr old home. We were avid whole food supplement users. We were continuously working to clean up our diet and the changes we have made over the years have turned into positive habits. We were proud of our accomplishments. Our son, the healthiest one of us all, became riddled with leukemia.
I have never not been able to catch my breath before.
BUT, and it's a big but, I find purpose in being an ear for someone else to process their story with. Granted, there are some people I just can't do this with because we simply aren't compatible in this way. Mostly, though, I enjoy being that sounding board for people- including people I have never met face to face. The Lord's ways are curious to this finite mind but they are perfect. I'll give an example of what I'm talking about: A friend moved across the country and is having a very tough time adjusting to life in a new state. The family is okay but this friend is feeling lonely and isolated. Each time they write to me they enourage me on my journey, build me up with prayer and affirmation, and then end up sharing some about their story. Inevitably they end up apologizing for their story leaking into our dialog. I personally value them sharing their story with me. It makes me feel valued as a human, that I have something to offer during this season where I am forced to accept the generosity of others because we just can't ___________ (fill in the blank). Someone sharing their story with me pulls me out of my darkness for a moment. It affords me the chance to lay my burden down, the burden that has my shoulder creases in it now, and pick up their's for a little while. Sure, it can be heavy, but it's just nice to carry something new and even better when my carrying that makes someone else's life a little easier for a little while.
A view from the other side might be this example: A Facebook friend emailed me. In this email was an explanation of how my "living out loud" has helped them heal a little bit more from a traumatic journey their family took a few years ago. During their dark days, they chose to keep it private and fly under the radar. They refused help when it was offered and made a go of things... alone. One of their friends reached out to them for help because they we staring at the face of the same journey. My friend reluctantly shared parts of their journey. My friend didn't want to relive those awful feelings- who can blame them. But they chose to open up to this person. What they shared brought validation and relief to their friend and, surprisingly, some healing to themselves. Beautiful, right? Then, my friend hears about my journey. They catch up via the blog. My writings unlock something inside them and they also sense the prompting of the Spirit to act. So they do. Generously, too, by the way. It was a pure blessing to receive the email that relayed the story above. God is not wasting one bit of my journey! Amen. And, if he is not wasting my journey he is certainly not wasting yours.
I'm sure I've hit a few tangents amid this post but I hope the meaning remains clear. Don't be selfish- share your story. I swear, people are watching and you will be blessed (and sometimes let down) by the reactions your fellow humans have. Your story matters.