Simple words by writer Anne Lamott yet oh so true. When you’re struggling, when you’re hurting…doubting, questioning, barely hanging on…and someone can identify with you…when someone can look you in the eyes and say, “Me too,” and they actually mean it – it can save you. Indian author Ritu Ghatourey says “some of the most comforting words that can be heard are me too. That moment when you find out that your struggle is also someone else’s struggle and that you’re not alone fighting that same battle.”
I suspect that the reason why many of us don’t open up more is because everyone seems to be saying “not me.” In an effort to shift the spotlight off of us, onto ANYBODY ELSE – we point fingers, judge and condemn others. It’s no wonder sharing has become a terribly UNSAFE act.
I recently watched Debbie Ford’s movie/documentary featuring Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson called ‘The Shadow Effect.” She said “Whatever we JUDGE or CONDEMN in another, is ultimately a disowned or rejected part of ourselves.” It’s so much easier to point a finger than to examine our own reaction to someone else’s situation. The reason it’s so upsetting is probably because there’s something in our own lives that we refuse to learn from or acknowledge and so we judge and condemn in an effort to disown or reject that part of ourselves.
Blogger Jason Hess says “It is my opinion that true community can only be formed as we walk together in a state of transparency; a state of openness that says if my frailties, my struggles help you succeed in this life allowing you to grow in your faith then glean what you can from my story for I am but human no greater no less than you.” I agree with Jason’s perspective. Our world today does not make room readily for this openness because when you’re in pain, in a “not me” world, you channel all your energies into HIDING the pain versus sharing and revealing. You may think that you’re giving yourself a wonderful gift of keeping safe and free from ridicule but you’re wrong; in an effort to hide your true feelings, you might be missing out on help from those in your community, who are ready to hear you and willing to say “me too.”
I appreciate the friends I DO have because of their ability to admit when they’ve screwed up and to share their not so perfect sides. Our connection is made in our struggle, in our frailty, when we are behaving in less than stellar ways. When my friends say “me too”, I know that they’re not going to judge me, or look down on me or give me a lecture. They get IT and they get ME. This acknowledgement, this ability to hear me without judging is the beginning most times of my own healing. They create the space for me to examine and look at myself. To share when I’ve screwed up and done stupid things.
Pete Wilson says “In order to HEAR a healing “me too,” we have to be real about what is going on with us. We have to be AUTHENTIC in order to experience AUTHENTIC community. It is largely our inability to be AUTHENTIC with each other or ourselves that makes it so difficult for us to recognize the GIFT of community being offered to us. The culture we live in today sets up so many expectations for what success looks like. We pretend to be something we’re not. We fake it until we make it. We pretend to be winners. We cover up our hurt and pain by escaping into addictive behaviour. Or we may just get in the habit of not letting anyone – including ourselves – know who we really are or what we’re really struggling with.”
I read an interesting article by Michael Cheshire called ‘Going to Hell with Ted Haggard.’ Ted Haggard was a prominent conservative Evangelical pastor who had been caught hiring a male prostitute to join him at hotels for “massages” and crystal meth. After his scandal broke, Haggard had gotten counselling and then restarted his ministry. Most of us watching from the outside scoffed at the idea of him as a legitimate minister at that point. Michael shared “A while back I was having a business lunch at a sports bar in the Denver area with a close atheist friend. He’s a great guy and a very deep thinker. Ted was on TV. It was well after Ted’s story had died down when my friend shared… “See, that guy said sorry a long time ago. Even his wife and kids stayed and forgave him, but all you Christians still seem to hate him. You guys can’t forgive him and let him back into your good graces. Every time you talk to me about God, you explain that he will take me as I am. You say he forgives all my failures and will restore my hope, and as long as I stay outside the church, you say God wants to forgive me. But that guy failed while he was one of you, and most of you are still vicious to him.” Then he uttered words that left me reeling: “You Christians eat your own. Always have. Always will.”
We can all be harsh like that. We point out those things that we think are bad while overlooking others. Pete Wilson says that for the most part, our list of sins generally involves the ones we personally DON’T struggle with much. In other words it’s okay to be prideful as long as you’re not gay. It’s okay to be greedy as long as you don’t think about having an abortion. It’s okay to be unloving as long as you don’t drink.
If we are unable to connect at “me too” how can we help? If we claim that we are not struggling, have no issues and have it all together, what can we offer the “broken” from our place of “unbrokeness”? It is IMPOSSIBLE to support one another if we can’t admit the struggles in our own lives. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to receive love and support if we can’t even admit that we need it. We can’t benefit from the power of community until we dare to face who we really are and to say to others “me too”.