Jesus Wept

Yesterday when I went to bed, I did not want to write a blog post today. I knew that I should, and I knew that I was probably going to, but that didn’t increase my desire. When I got up this morning though, I had new energy. I knew what I wanted to talk about. It was the words that my mother has said at least a hundred times:

“You just need to keep moving forward.”

I went over to my brother’s apartment at around eleven, only to stay there until after three. My prospects of actually getting this blog post finished for my goal was waning. I still wasn’t sure what I actually wanted to say.

Awhile after I had returned home, my pocket buzzed. It was Mom asking who had died. I had gotten a notification saying that Barbara Sinatra (the wife of Frank Sinatra) had died. I assumed that it was that. Mom said no and informed me that a boy in my graduating class had just passed away. It took me some time to find out who it was.  I was in a slight panic. I have never had anyone I was extremely close to pass away before. With a graduating class of less than five hundred, most everyone knows everyone. The panic dissipated when I found out. He was someone I had classes with, but had never really talked to. Yet it was quickly replaced with the sick misery that is all too familiar for my school. Last October we lost a teacher and a student within days of each other. If there is one thing I have found living in a small town, it is that if something like this doesn’t directly affect you, it does to your friends.

I have tried to keep religion mostly out of my blog, in order to make it as relatable as possible. It is impossible for me to express my thoughts even at mediocre manner without incorporating my personal religious beliefs.

I remember when I was about thirteen years old, one of my church youth group leaders telling us about how she had gotten through a difficult time. Her parents divorced. It was incredibly difficult for her, but she was married and had a young daughter. She continued to keep a schedule with her daughter, making sure her needs were met. She told us that her therapist attributed her not going into deep depression to this. That was a story that has always stuck with me. It has something to do with knowing you are part of something bigger than yourself.

When I heard of my classmate’s passing, I thought that it might not be the right time to talk about moving forward. When there are family and friends grieved, who are you to tell them to get over losing a precious soul. Then I thought of the famously short scripture found at John  11:35 :

“Jesus wept.”

I came to realize that in this scripture lies the key. This is the story where Christ raises Lazarus from the dead. There isn’t necessarily a reason why he should be sad. Christ knows that in a few short minutes, Lazarus will be up and about. Yet when Martha takes him to where Mary and other Jews are weeping, he weeps along side with them. Christ shows that even when He knows that we will rise again, He also knows that it is difficult now. It is okay to take the moment to be sorrowful. What is important is that we do not allow for the sorrow to take over us and stop us from progressing. After Jesus wept, he raised Lazarus. After the Pharisees heard and decided they wanted to kill Jesus, He went to Ephraim and “there continued with his disciples”.

We may not get our brother back, we may not get our friend right now. But the fact that there is life after death, the fact that the sun will raise to see another morning should give us the comfort to weep and there continue.

There will always be those who will be there to help. There will always be those who love you. Though there may not be the chance to go back, there is always the opportunity to move forward. My thoughts and prayers are with my classmate’s dear family and friends. To feel pain is to be alive.

~Ali

Suck it Up and Show Your Weakness

While at a job interview yesterday, I was asked a question that I had been expecting:

“Why is confidentiality important?”

The job I was interviewing for works on a system on voluntarily asking for help in order to improve method and structure. I suspected that confidentiality would be an integral part of the work. It wasn’t until I verbalized my answer in that interview that really  thought about what it meant:

“When someone asks for help, they become vulnerable. We need to respect that in order to truly do something.”

While I wasn’t incredibly impressed with the eloquence of my answer, I did believe that the core of what I was saying was true. I have found that it is in the weak and honest moments that we have the greatest opportunity to change for the better. Vulnerability is the path to strength.

I began to look up more reliable information on vulnerability in the same way I had done countless times in speech and debate. Yay for Google. One particular researcher caught my eye. With over 6,400,000 vies on YouTube Brené Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability”  is one of the most popular TED Talks in the world. With over a decade of research, Brown discusses connection, shame, and vulnerability. One of her quotes about vulnerability that stands out to me comes from a Dan Schawbel interview titled “Brene Brown: How Vulnerability Can Make Our Lives Better”  :

“Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think. When we’re fueled by the fear of what other people think or that gremlin that’s constantly whispering “You’re not good enough” in our ear, it’s tough to show up.”

Showing up is hard for me. One of my greatest weaknesses is the amount weight I give to what others think of me. It’s hard to for me to put my writing up on social media. It’s hard for me to go to a dance party with only ten people at it. It’s hard to ask roommates and neighbors to do what I need them to do. I’m afraid that I won’t have friends and I won’t be loved. Trying to be the “perfect” person  for everyone means you aren’t the perfect person for anyone. Including yourself and God.

In asking a question, Schwabel mentions that, “People connect more with those who have weaknesses”. In this simple statement, I realized something simple. So simple that a little voice in my head said, “Well, no duh”. Weakness is important. Also that it is important to realize that weakness isn’t inherently bad, which I can’t remember ever explicitly thinking about. In Wendy Ulrich’s article “It Isn’t a Sin to be Weak”  , she describes it this way:

“We might define weakness as the limitation on our wisdom, power, and holiness that comes with being human. As mortals we are born helpless and dependent, with various physical flaws and predispositions.”

We must rid ourselves the idea that weakness is automatically evil and instead think of it as a limitation that can be overcome. A weakness of a baby is that it cannot walk. Yet babies are rarely ridiculed for this particular weakness. It is one that everyone has faced and many have helped others to face. The process takes time to fix and that’s okay. When we have this mindset, we are putting ourselves on a path of progression and growth. We can become stagnant and hateful with a negative perspective on weakness. Not only do we rob ourselves of personal improvement, we rob ourselves of connection. Perfectionism kills honest progress. As we attempt to hid our weakness, we also shove away our opportunity for real human belonging and connection. We seal the very well from which we wish to drink from.

Give a little of yourself. While life certainly isn’t easy, it can be simple. I have personally been trying to do this in small ways. Being genuine in conversation, being honest in wants and desires and needs. I have failed a lot. Yet each time I succeed, I feel a little better about myself.

Brown quotes Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” when summing up her thoughts about vulnerability:

“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly . . . who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

We make mistakes constantly. We mess up, let down, and misunderstand. However, thankfully, our mistakes never need to be our end  Experience never need be forsaken. Every time we say “I’m sorry”, every time we say “I’ll try again”, we make the most of vulnerability. It is our choices that make us who we are. How we roll after the punch. Our worst deeds can turn into our greatest resource for helping others. In that help, we can find the connection that we have so greatly desired to have.

In the past day, I have learned a little bit more about why confidentiality is important. It is important because it gives the chance for vulnerability in a small, private setting. Confidentiality leads to trust and human connection. It leads to progress. Confidentiality can be the first step to a happy, honest life.

Recognize weakness. Get help from others. Change. When we become better, life becomes better. Then we are one step closer to being able to say that life is so good.

~Ali