At my last Dance Kickboxing class for the summer one of my adult students shared with me a very disturbing piece of information about one of our neighbors. It related to an incident involving this neighbor that occurred 40 years ago that to this day she cannot talk about without crying. As I listened to her still fresh pain, I tried to juxtapose this description with my previously held opinion about this neighbor and found an internal struggle within myself to reconcile the two very different impressions of this man.
I enjoy listening to others and feel blessed that others feel comfortable sharing their life journeys with me. Although often these are times of joy, there are many times that people will bring me into events and memories of the darker and harder times in their lives. They know that they can share these sometimes painful experiences and I will never tell another person. I feel blessed that I am able to lift some of the burden from them.
I know having this safe space is extremely important, and it does not take the place of other avenues of support these fellow travelers in life may be seeking. For me, the experience has its challenges. I feel the joy of the happy stories, but also, acutely feel the pain of the many toxic secrets that are shared. It seems that as the darkness is shared, the teller of the story feels some relief, while for me, the pain is sometimes hard to bear. As I pray through these times, I look to the Scripture passages that remind us of Yeshua bearing our sins. I become overwhelmed at the magnitude of all that He did for us, all that He suffered for us, putting my small episode in perspective, helping me to cope. Yet the reality is that each of these difficult times are huge to the bearer, and extremely troublesome to the listener, only reminding us further of our humanity, our frailty, and our need for God.
Another challenging aspect of these times is hearing the often unflattering description of someone I know that now has been put into my head permanently by the event being described. I am reminded of the analogy of words once spoken being like feathers released from a pillow – neither can be taken back. When the words are gossip or false, the result is especially unfortunate. Yet in the case of a confidence such as shared by my student that was a terrible truth about someone I had thought better of, the difficulty is real as to how to not hear those words every time I see him.
How well do we really know another? In the case of a neighbor, it is not that unusual to have a serious misconception, as I did in this case, since we truthfully don’t interact that much. When neighbors are interviewed about unfortunate news events, they so typically will say that their neighbor couldn’t have done such a thing. Yet they do.
As our circles of relationships become closer, however, as in close communities, clubs, and families, we do gain the ability to know each other better. Yet even in more intimate settings, toxic secrets exist.
How well do we know ourselves? Our brains are miraculous organisms with awesome capacity to learn, and also to self deceive. When unpleasant events occur, it is common to rationalize or repress. The ability to face and to discuss tragic events promotes healing. As these scars are worked on, through loving conversation with others who can be trusted, and with therapy and prayer, we can again engage in life more fully, more trusting of others, more loving of others.
The more we are able to live loving and trusting others, the more we are able to love and trust HaShem. When the evil one has caused pain, this ability becomes damaged, pulling us away from our Abba, in whom we can fully trust, whose love of us is infinite and unconditional. As we work through the woundings we regain our ability to draw closer to Him and feel His love.
My student’s confidence stays just that. The tears that she shed as she related the event hopefully will help in her healing. My future interactions with my neighbor will remain unchanged. Yet my heart will remain heavy when I see him as I am reminded of the failures of man and our need for grace. I feel anew the pain of our Messiah and am on bended knee for His presence in our lives.