When I speak of sharing as a way to cope with tragedy I’m not referring to something as trivial as going halfsies on a foot long submarine sandwich or something more drastic and deviant such as joining a swinger’s club. I mean opening up yourself to another human being by sharing your sorrow. Seeking social support is an adaptive or constructive coping technique. The trick is knowing whether or not the other person is willing to share your burden.
The Christian Bible speaks of Jesus Christ who told his disciples to come unto Him with their burdens and He would give them rest. The Torah suggests that the word rest, as used in this scripture, refers to a related word that means to lead or guide. Consequently, a person who knows the way to peace or knows how to find happiness has a moral obligation to help others find the way. The Quran says that Allah does not put burden on any human more than he can bear. It also says that any man who is burdened cannot lift another from their burden without the help of Allah. I’m paraphrasing, of course. The 14th Dalai Lama said, “Compassion and love are not mere luxuries. As the source both of inner and external peace, they are fundamental to the continued survival of our species.” Buddha taught his son to practice compassion. He said that compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return.
With those thoughts in mind, I would like to share an experience I had the other day. I met a kind, honest man who for whatever reason decided to open up to me. We met as he was delivering supplies to my office. His tragedy was tender and personal and I felt honored that he chose to share it with me. The story he shared was about the death of his infant child many years prior. I suppose he felt comfortable sharing his history with me being that I work for the Medical Examiner. Perhaps he thought that I would understand his loss and appreciate his pain. He would be correct in that assumption. Whatever reason he might have had for sharing his story, I DID truly appreciate him sharing it with me. It’s important to me to remain grounded. It’s all too easy to become callous and dissociate from reality when surrounded by tragedy all day long. Connecting with another human helps maintain realism.
Although I am still a stranger to that delivery man, I will always remember the part of him that he shared with me, and I hope our brief interaction lightened his load. It certainly made me reflect on a few aspects of my childhood. You see, I come from a long line of story tellers who share our family history as if speaking is as essential as breathing. Every aspect of our family’s life has been shared with friends, neighbors, and strangers alike. As a child it embarrassed me to hear our trials revealed so readily with anyone willing to listen and some not so willing. I’m just now beginning to realize that the sharing of those burdens with others, and the open discussion of our family’s trials were perhaps an attempt to cope with the burden of those trials.
I have discovered that I too have the gift of sharing. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. In any case, I have found that it is quite liberating to release my secrets into the world. Thank you to all of my liberators and please accept my apologies for saddling you with my problems. A caution to all who comfortably and freely share your burdens with others, please be aware with whom you share that you do not saddle the already heavy-laden. Neither of you will benefit from that interchange.
Please consider the following quote by L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In his October, 2009 General Conference address, That Your Burdens May Be Light, he said, “…bearing up under our own burdens can help us develop a reservoir of empathy for the problems other face. The Apostle Paul taught that we should ‘bear…one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.’ Accordingly, our baptismal covenants require that we should be ‘willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and [be] willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.'”
I would like to reiterate what the Dalai Lama has said concerning human nature. Compassion is not a luxury, it is fundamental to the survival of our species. May you be willing to share your sorrows with a friend and in turn receive their’s. Be a friend to one who has none. Listen. It is human nature to hold on to your anger and sadness, to wallow in self-pity. Do yourself a favor and put off the natural man. Remember that a more constructive technique to cope is to share.
- The Burden Of Selfish Religion (theologicaljello.com)
- The purpose of life (jampasmandala.wordpress.com)
- Raising Compassionate Kids (everydayfamily.com)
- His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama: The Art of Compassion (sarahhamiltoncoaching.wordpress.com)
- Not My Issue! (akissofbliss.wordpress.com)