Few of us intentionally set out to hurt those we love.
But we do.
Angry words come out of our mouths.
Jokes that seem funny to us, offend.
We forget birthdays.
But even worse than this, often our exclamations of joy can rub deeper wounds into a loved one’s pain.
I know I’ve been guilty of such.
But, the clash of pain and joy is not something you learn about early in life.
From where I sit, I believe, it’s often a lesson that tackles us in our 20s and 30s when age no longer equals simultaneous activity with our peers. College, relationships, birthing, etc all come (or not) at a unique pace.
My first hint of this lesson came when I visited a mentor’s house while home on a college break.
My friend suffered from depression (though I didn’t have any idea what this meant back then) and toxic friendships. She really needed a friend to sit and hear her pain. It had been a tough week.
But she was my mentor, so I wanted to tell her my stories before any of that.
So, I charged right in.
I pulled out a photo album I’d put together and started showing her what I’d been up to. Pages after pages of posed pictures and happy faces. I was so proud of the new college friends I’d made.
But I could tell as we neared the end of my “show and tell” hour that sadness found its way to her face. Though I didn’t have the courage to tell her what I noticed, the truth was this: my joy rubbed against her pain.
A year ago, I sat with another friend, a peer who was visiting my home for the first time.
I was so excited that she’d come to visit that I was eager to share all those things you can only see when you are in a person’s home. I gave a tour, especially of our new basement remodel. I showed her the framed pictures in my office. Hours later I pulled out old pictures from the upstairs bookshelf including my wedding album. On auto pilot, I told her the stories.
But again, the same thing happened.
As much as my friend tried to engage what I told her about the happy day in Southern Georgia when I became a Hagan, by the last couple of pages she was done. My friend loved me, but she was single. She didn’t want to see any more pictures of me in a white dress.
Whereas my wedding album told a story of a fulfilling union for me, my wedding album to her said, “You’re alone.”
My joy rubbed up against her pain.
I’ve been on the other side of this conflict too.
Friends have gone on and about their babies, and then sent more emails about baby #2 and #5.
My Facebook feed is full of ultrasound pictures (even some in 4D!)
And invitations to baby showers fill the mailbox.
It’s joy rubbing up against my pain. It’s a stomach sinking, crappy feeling that I am learning how to endure.
Because at this juncture of the Hagan household, children in the home is not something we can have (though we want).
Every time I hear stories after stories of pregnancy and “the cutest thing” my child said today from a well-meaning friend, I want to be happy and supportive. Yet, my heart aches.
But, I believe in community. I believe in sharing in the joy and pain other’s lives. My faith gives me this desire.
Is there a way to be better and ask others to be better in return?
There many not be easy answers. If any answers at all.
Our world is full of both joy and pain.
All I know is this: “I’m sorry” and “How can I be a good friend to you? with a spoon full of self-awareness is a good start.