No Stupid Questions
Anything mentionable is manageable.
That is which is most personal is most universal.
The other day a friend told us that when he went through a divorce several decades ago he had only one other person with whom he felt he could talk – about his perceived failure, about his feelings of shame, about his fears and pain. Much of his family had disowned him. Many refused to talk to him. He certainly didn’t feel their support or that he had a safe place to share.
There is nothing so awful that it cannot be shared. Nothing is so unique that no one else hasn’t thought it, said it or done it before. We cannot effectively find healing from our worries, our lapses, our mistakes, our addictions, our struggles if we are not allowed or encouraged to share them in some healthy way. To give voice to them is the first step in finding relief from them.
When you feel as if you are the only person in the world going through a situation and when it is conveyed that it is grievously wrong to have a certain problem or hold those views or have struggled with an attitude or behavior we immediately shut down. We are afraid to talk about it. We are ashamed to share our feelings or our opinions or our thoughts. When we feel as if we cannot even mention something that we are struggling with it completely keeps us from finding help or strength or hope.
We might all remember back in school when we second guessed ourselves about asking what we thought to be a stupid question—so we didn’t ask it. But our teacher’s reminded us over and over again that there are no such things as stupid questions—so we waited until someone else asked it for us. Some kids may have laughed or scoffed at the question but we remember being grateful for the question, especially for the difficult ones.
There are no stupid questions, no stupid thoughts, no stupid stories that are too unmentionable to share, at least with someone we can trust to allow us to get the feelings off our chest and into the open light.
When we came across these two quotes, from Fred Rogers and Henri Nouwen, we were reminded once again how important it is to have a safe place in which to share – anything, everything, and that we are not the only one in the world who has that view or feeling or struggle.
Last week, I (Tom) shared with a small group of people some feelings of anger I had experienced the week before – about the weight of responsibility I am feeling on the imminent birth of our twins. One of the members of the group who also recently gave birth to twins then shared about how her husband had a similar moment shortly before the birth of their twins. It was immediately healing to me to be reassured that I am not the no one to be overwhelmed, to be frustrated, to get angry at the weight of the situation we’re dealing with. And by letting others in suddenly word got out about how we are starting to feel overwhelmed and in response that group of people has begun reaching out to offer help in whatever ways they can, to ease our fears and to help carry the weight with us.
It’s a shame that we don’t feel safe enough to share an emotion or ask that question or confess that we feel a certain way. We carry burdens of guilt, shame, regret, longing and fear all the time. We are often weighed down by this baggage, thinking in that we have to carry it alone. But we don’t have to.
I (Michael) was on a train five years ago traveling from Glasgow, Scotland to Bristol, England. An older couple, probably in their 80’s got on the train at one of the stops. They had a lot of baggage to carry and could not possibly carry it all. They had what appeared to be family members help them as they embarked and as they left the train at the end of their travels. While they were on the train they the porters were quick to make things easier for them. And as they got up to go to the restroom and the train swayed from side to side, they both held on to each other as they slowly made their way through the aisle. They needed each other and they needed the help of all the others to share in their journey.
But don’t we all? We are often quick to help people with more outward struggles, the literal outward baggage we carry. But we are less quick to with the emotional instability, the mental anguish we may feel the spiritual struggles we may have. But it’s just as vital that the emotional, mental and spiritual baggage that weighs on us is is carried as the physical baggage.
There is nothing mentionable that is not manageable.
There is nothing so personal that any of us are going through that isn’t universal to us all.
We see it all the time. When a burden held onto for so long is shared, and lifted, the weight melts away, the pain begins to subside, the burden of holding on is lifted.
May we all, today, take a risk in sharing what is most personal and keeping us down without the fear, judgment and condemnation, knowing that anything, ANYTHING mentionable is manageable.