Sharing My Pain and Looking for Empathy – The Challenge is Real – Part 3
Friday, March 30th, 2018
As I mentioned in the last blog post, I was eagerly looking forward to writing more on this topic of sharing pain with vulnerability (versus in a self-protective way) and finding empathy (from our husbands) when Sunday evening happened and this played out at my house – except in reverse order.
Jason was sharing his pain in an ever-so-vulnerable way and I was the one responsible for humbly offering empathy. Not an easy task for me, I must say.
What I’d like to do in this blog post is share with you five things that helped me in being empathetic toward Jason.
Keep in mind – this is most often where your husband struggles (no offense husband!) so feel free to just forward this blog post on over to him and see if it sparks any meaningful conversations. (In addition, please note – If you are early on in your healing journey – I am much less concerned about you feeling empathy toward your husband (although this will come, in due time). Your biggest job is to get in touch with your pain and share it in a vulnerable way (which we will be talking about more in Part 4).
Now then. We can move on.
Below are the five things I identified that helped me engage empathy toward Jason –
I had a fresh perspective of how hard things really were so I was able to quite easily relate to his struggles and anguish. In other words, I was fairly in touch over the weekend with my own depravity and my need for a Savior. I had become angry with my boys more than once and then dealt with the horror of what I said and the shame of wondering – if someone saw how I was treating them – what would they think of me?!
Chances are, this is going to look different for you husbands out there. You won’t know first hand the hurt and pain your wife is feeling. Don’t let this stop you from missing my point – the key is to get in touch with your own depravity. It starts with getting in touch with your feelings. Not denying them or numbing out when you feel anything but happiness but actually engaging those tough emotions like fear. I love this quote –
“Fear gets us in touch with our very real vulnerability, and it gets us in touch with our need for others and God.” p201 Changes that Heal by Henry Cloud
Once we are in touch with our own darkest emotions and our desperate need for a Savior – it is so much easier to relate to our spouse’s darkest emotions, even when we caused them.
By God’s grace alone – I allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me. I’m cringing because that last sentence sounds so hyper-spiritual and I might have just lost half of you but hopefully you can just cringe with me and keep reading. There were a total of three times that Jason and I abruptly ended our conversation and I was responsible for all three of them. And each time, I knew deep in my soul (in hind sight, I know this was the Holy Spirit at work within me) I needed to go back – keep fighting – and try to figure this out. It was less about what Jason wasn’t doing and more about what I wasn’t doing – I wasn’t allowing myself to HEAR him (more on that in a bit).
I was still. As I journaled out what all I learned from “the incident” what I saw time and time again is that once I found Jason in the little study – I was still. I didn’t react OR respond. I simply listened. For instance, when I found him crying in the study – I stood across from him initially while he was sitting in the chair. He was angry and stomping and walking in and out of the room. When he finally settled back in the chair – I pulled up a stool next to him, not across from him. Subconsciously, I was communicating – we are on the same team here. In addition, I consciously worked at keeping my mouth shut and not interrupting or reacting to what Jason was saying. I sat with him in his anguish. There wasn’t anything FOR me to say.
The first words out of my mouth, when he was done venting were – “I get it. And I’m so sorry.” And I meant it. I finally heard him in his anguish. I saw how torn up he was and how I had played a part in him feeling insignificant and like what he was experiencing wasn’t important enough to me. I told him we’d do whatever it takes to get help. Even if it meant I’d miss my favorite exercise class or even if we had to sell something we need or love in order to afford it.
I’ve continued to apologize and confess my shortcomings – up to nine days after “the incident”. Just last night, I confessed to Jason that I KNEW I was choosing not to hear him. To hear him meant I had to be selfless because to hear him meant we would need to get help and it would come at a cost (from both a time and financial perspective). It meant I had to lay down my life (okay, I know that might seem a bit dramatic; cringe with me again!). And it’s true – when we lay down our life for someone – we are humble, we hear them, and we do the right thing, even when it hurts. My apology, even nine days later, wasn’t in a shaming way or in a self-deprecating way but rather in a – I messed up and I need a Savior refreshing and freeing sort of way.
In the next blog post – we’re going to tackle what Jason did to share his pain with me in a vulnerable way that reached me – heart and soul.
Would love, as always, to hear your thoughts.
xo – Shelley