Apr 29, 2014

On the Pain of Hope

I think that Heavenly Father is very merciful. Obviously, He is. But I mean this in a way that I don't often hear about preached over the pulpit. I think often Heavenly Father shows mercy by protecting us from ourselves. From our weaknesses, when we aren't yet capable of resolving them. I don't know about you, but it would be tortuous for me to know of a weakness I have, and to not be able to fix it. I think often Heavenly Father has kept me in check so that my weaknesses don't become destructive... until I am ready to resolve them, and then he allows them to become destructive so that I will want to resolve them.

I think that includes the wounds that come from things we don't cause ourselves... the hurts we carry because of the poor choices of those around us.

And... even deeper... the ways our own weaknesses contributed (however slightly) to the hurts.

In my case, it was a weakness of self-esteem. I felt something, with my first husband, when we started dating, that I had never felt before--acceptance. And a knowledge that (at least one person on this earth) thought I was a wonderful person. I latched on to that immediately and clung. It was such a better place than the one I was coming from, where (and this is not necessarily the fault of my family... in childhood and teenagerhood, your perception is often skewed. And often when there is trauma involved, you end up with a completely inaccurate picture of your life) I felt like I was a pretty terrible person--unattractive, unlikable, awkward, embarrassing. Gross.

Another weakness that contributed to the things that happened was my saving-people complex. My ex husband was lonely. He'd had personal tragedy. He got depressed about where his life was headed. And Nobody Else saw what a wonderful person he was and appreciated that... they all judged him as weird or awkward or unattractive (and thus the spiral of over-identification, leading to some unhealthy co-dependence, which lead me to impulsively ask for and agree to an engagement that kept me from dating my first year away at college, and kept me from examining the relationship too closely when I should have noticed several red flags.)

These weaknesses of mine are things I can apply to my current relationships. That's the nice thing. I know how they lead to my pain (very slightly, because it was still my ex husband's decisions that destroyed our marriage and cut through my life--codependence does not deserve unfaithfulness, deception and attempted murder)and to some bad decisions and some difficulty in my relationships.

But before I could see and acknowledge these things, I had to feel like I *didn't* cause what happened to me. And know that for a fact. And that took a lot of loving counsel (counsel that I had cut myself off from before, because bad experiences with priesthood leadership and therapists and husbands had made me distrustful and afraid).

Right now I have a good friend going through this. Going through the experience of trauma and difficulty and scary things happening that aren't his fault, and his bishop is, for whatever reason, unable to support him the way he needs. He has been blogging about it lately, and I have been reading his posts with a breaking heart.

Who knows why this bishop is unable to support my friend. It may be that the situation taps into some of the bishop's own traumas (as was the case with my difficult experience). It may be that this bishop is not meant to help my friend--he is meant to help the other person in the situation, and my friend (being spiritually strong, capable of emotional self-reflection, and also being supported by many others)is trusted by Heavenly Father to be OK and to be able to handle not being supported by his bishop for now. It may be that this bishop is not paying attention to some spiritual promptings he should be, and is just being a judgmental person who has already decided my friend is bad (and in that case, we still need to forgive. Because a bishop is like any other person--imperfect. And as members of the church we are expected to support and love imperfect leaders. And be that soft place to land in the face of others' imperfection.)

But what to tell my friend right now, while he is struggling with the terrible feelings that come when you struggle, but feel unsupported by those who you've always looked up to as a safe place to go--a place for compassion in times of trouble and turmoil, a place where you trust to be judged fairly, helped and loved.

I feel like I am watching him be put through everything I went through, and took ten years to recover from. And it hurts. Like watching someone pull wings off a butterfly. Sorry for the sappy analogy.

Heavenly Father has added another layer of recovery for me, right now, that apparently I am ready for (?) and that is the knowledge that what happened to me, happens. To people. It wasn't an isolated event, it happens sometimes and it will happen to those that I love.

And it is my job to use the empathy I have to help, instead of shrinking away and making it an addition to my own hurt and trauma. I need to have a strong heart about this and reach out. And be the example of someone who has healed from this sort of pain, and become stronger in my testimony and compassion because of it.

Lately, things have been hard for me at church. Whenever you're given a calling where you're supposed to coordinate the efforts of several people and coordinate those overall efforts with several different organizations, all coordinating the efforts of lots of people, you are going to end up making people upset. And one thing that has been very hard for me is trusting people I am not close to. For a while, I was trying (unconsciously) to resolve that by *becoming* close to people, but that wasn't the answer.

The answer is, Heavenly Father expects me to trust. As a default. Until I learn someone is untrustworthy, I am supposed to trust.

Which feels, after what I have experienced, kind of crazy and dangerous. But really, it's not. Really, it's the only way to heal.

I need to be willing to put myself out there, and be disappointed at times. I need to have hope, and deal with the pain that comes when that hope is disappointed, and then *continue* to hope and to be willing to be disappointed. Because nobody is perfect, and if we just shut people out because they show their lack of perfection, because they've hurt us, well then, that's *us* judging and causing others the same sort of pain we struggled so long to recover from.

In this church (and in this world), we can either all go around letting our rough edges cut each other to pieces, or we can be that willing, soft place to land, and provide safe, healing places for others.

We can either let our difficulties harden us, so that we blind ourselves to others' needs, using the excuse that they might (or have) hurt us to justify our blinders, or we can let our difficulties soften us... give us greater empathy, understanding, and a willingness to look inward so we can correct ourselves and resolve not to be a source of pain to others.

There's a scripture about that somewhere. I found it once, and haven't been able to find it again... if you know it, please post it in the comments.

Anyway. Hope can be the most painful thing. But without it, what do we have? If we shrink from the pain of hope, we end up putting ourselves in a place of darkness. We trap ourselves. We shut out everything that gives purpose to life... and I'd call that depression: that feeling of purposelessness. Lack of hope.