Asking for Help is Not a Moral Failure

HOW PRIDE ROBS US OF RELATIONAL CLOSENESS

About a year ago I committed to writing a book and I signed up for an online course that would guide me through the process. One of the biggest treasures I found inside that course was a connection to a singer/songwriter in Nashville with a mission similar to mine. Brittany Barbera ended up releasing her book Let Me Be Weak: What People In Pain Wish They Could Tell You last December and I 13884573_832188605960_1654587303_nloved it. I’ve never had a guest post on this site before, but trust me, this is worth it. I wanted to share her words with you because I believe you will find them to be both challenging and relatable.

You can find her book here: Let Me Be Weak

She also wrote & recorded a gorgeous song with the same title: Let Me Be Weak

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13918937_832184598990_972091412_oIn a world where we are obsessed with sharing everything online, from pictures of our food and the sunset, to the latest quiz results, identifying which ‘Friend’ we are (I’m Monica), it’s a wonder we have such a hard time genuinely sharing things of substance. Given the amount of time we spend communicating each day, you’d think we’d be experts by now. We’ve mastered the fine art of scrolling through our news-feeds and clicking “like,” but so many of us are secretly lonely and feel completely disconnected from any authentic sense of community.

Regardless of how well put together we may look on the outside, the unavoidable truth is this: everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. Though we are often seduced by the glamour of invincibility, life happens to us all—people or dreams die and relationships end. Jobs we depend on for financial stability dissolve in the wake of economic uncertainty. Accidents and illness prey upon the loveliest of people, and catch us off guard. All manner of unexpected traumas threaten to interrupt our plans, turn our world upside down, and expose the cracks in our armor.

However, we live in a culture where we are encouraged to be self-sufficient, where the powerful are celebrated and even idolized. We are socialized to present the best versions of ourselves to one another and to pretend like we don’t struggle with anything at all. But, I don’t know anyone who is self-sufficient 100% of the time. I’m tired of perpetuating this myth and I’m really tired of seeing wonderful, hard-working people suffer the shame of inferiority, simply because they need emotional support in a time of crisis.

Our deep seated ideology of independence spills over into the way we care for people in pain. We struggle to allow room for grief and are tempted to resist the necessary work of healing because it is a messy and uncomfortable process. Since we are relational beings, we need to feel loved or it will take a toll on our mental health. I’ve heard it said that we can only be loved to the extent that we are known. But even though we crave relational closeness, that level of vulnerability feels dangerous because we also fear rejection. The truth is that we all have wins and losses; both the highs and the lows are integral parts of the journey. And when we only share our successes, we tell an incomplete and unhelpful story.

If we want to have a healthy internal dialogue and deeper relational satisfaction, we have to be willing to be honest. We can’t ask people to go where we are unwilling to go ourselves. However, if we are willing to drop the act and allow others to see our imperfections, we create an environment where the people we love are As you learn to be compassionate towards yourself, you’ll soon discover that you’ve liberated others to do the same, and built a community of friends who love and embrace imperfect people.willing to do the same. Our widely accepted cultural expectations will rule us if we let them. They’ll insist we put on our masks and convince us that pretending will get us what we want, but internally we will suffer feelings of disconnection and unworthiness, because we didn’t allow anyone to genuinely get to know us.

Asking for help is not a moral failure. It’s a sign of health and courage. If you’re hurting today, be brave enough to admit you have limitations and need support. Share the unedited version of your life with someone you trust and be willing to receive help when they are kind enough to lend you a hand. As you learn to be compassionate towards yourself, you’ll soon discover that you’ve liberated others to do the same, and built a community of friends who love and embrace imperfect people.


Brittany Barbera is a singer/songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee, and the author of the #1 bestselling book,
Let Me Be Weak: What People in Pain Wish They Could Tell You. Listen to Let Me Be Weak, the song which inspired the book, and sign up to receive a free mp3 here.

The Day I Realized I Was Hurting Myself

Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 3

I remember the day I realized I was hurting myself. My head hung low, my shoulders nearly touched each other in front of my chest and my fingers gripped and pulled at sections of hair on both sides of my head. Then hateful words spat forth from my lips, “Why am I so stupid?! I can’t handle this!”

For two years after giving birth I suffered from depression and deep shame related to my experience. Fatigue complicated it all. After a 7 month period on anti-depressants and a good deal of soul-work I wasn’t completely better, but I wasn’t depressed. I was functioning at what I would call a steady low-normal. Yet, shaming self-talk kept creeping back into my internal dialogue.

“Why do you always screw up like this, Andrea?!”

Then I started researching the brain. Did you know that digital imaging technology research has proven that the same area in the brain that lights up when we feel emotional pain is the same area in the brain that lights up when we feel physical pain? This means that emotional pain is ACTUAL pain like breaking a bone is pain.  And yet we apparently have some control over both the physical and emotional pain we feel. Isn’t that fascinating?!

(Check out this video if you’re interested.)

One day I was in the middle of speaking angry words to myself again when I put together the pieces of what I’d been studying about the human brain and my own experience and I realized I’d fallen into a destructive pattern of self-talk that kept me down rather than helping me get better.

“I may not be cutting my skin or refusing to eat, but my words are self-harming! This has to stop.”

I learned that I wasn’t truly living in the forgiveness and grace I’d been given. Through this series we’ve been teasing out the four steps I identified that helped me step out of self-shame and into a more loving version of myself. (Find links at the bottom of this post.)

  1. Step into the light that exposes your weaknesses. See them for what they are.
  2. Take responsibility for your short-comings. Ask forgiveness where forgiveness is needed and help when help is needed.

It’s time for number 3. This step might just be the hardest one of all.

3. Enjoy the freedom from your burden. Bask in the warmth that love provides and say kind things to yourself and those who forgive or help you.

Forgiveness and grace say that you don’t need to keep beating yourself up or fighting to prove yourself. In fact, when you do these things, it’s probably an indication that you haven’t truly asked for forgiveness. Saying the right words is nice, but it isn’t enough to free you. It is in step 3 where the rubber meets the road.

Forgiveness is a tricky subject and I’ve heard a lot of people suggest that we need to forgive ourselves. But I believe that forgiveness is a relational word that takes place between two entities. You are a whole person, mind/body/soul, not a split person whose soul needs to forgive your mind, etc. I do not believe the problem is that you need to forgive yourself. I believe you need to actually believe you are forgiven.

I do not believe you need to forgive yourself. You need to actually believe you are forgivenWhen I ask for forgiveness but I don’t really intend on living free in that forgiveness, I am not actually asking for forgiveness! I’m asking for you to feel better about me. This request is based in shame, a feeling that I am worthless and I need you to change how you feel about me and treat me so I will feel more valuable.

If I want to fully bask in the warmth of the light of love and forgiveness, I need to stop minimizing the impact I have on others and feel the weight of that burden. When I feel the weight, I can release it fully when I ask for forgiveness.

It’s like carrying a big boulder on your shoulder. When you say with your lips “forgive me” but in your heart you mean “think better of me,” you are asking the other person to ignore the boulder along with you. It’s like coming to an agreement “let’s just pretend this isn’t here anymore,” but you still walk with a slump.

Sweet Freedom!

But you don’t have to keep carrying the boulder! Instead, you can

  1. feel the weight of the wrong-doing.
  2. ask and believe that God truly forgives you and releases you from that burden.
  3. ask the other person for forgiveness.

Here’s the thing. The other person may not truly forgive you and you may end up with a strained or broken relationship. But if you believe God forgives you, you are released from the weight of what you’ve done. You may be sad that your relationship with the other person is broken, but beating yourself up won’t heal it.

No one can love you as perfectly as God loves you. He’s the only one who can see your heart and truly release you from your burden. And when that happens, you will not keep saying hateful things to yourself because it won’t be about you anymore. Instead, gratefulness and thanksgiving will pour from your heart and you will want to share the freedom of your love with others.

But more on that next time…

When you ask for forgiveness are you asking for the other person to come to an agreement with you to ignore the burden that comes with your sin and weakness? Or are you going to bask in the warmth that love provides by responding to forgiveness with words of kindness from a heart of gratefulness?

 

The Prerequisite to Empowering Others

Stepping Out of Self-Shame (Part 1)

Stepping Out of Self-Shame (Part 2)

The Opportunity in Your Imperfections (Part 4)

Book Impact: Schema of a Soul

Two years ago on Novemer 22st, Aaron and I traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska for Kimberlye Berg’s Schema of a Soul book launch party. It wasn’t just any old party or launch of a book. It was a sacred moment in time, set aside to honor the life and memory of a young man and woman lost tragically in a car accident, years before. It was a sacred space, set aside to hold the terrible-beautiful reality of suffering families and a mother who emurged from years of struggle with an offering: words that artfully and authentically tell how she found a love that is stronger than death.

I met Kimberlye Berg at Dr. Larry Crabb’s School of Spiritual Direction in 2011. I tend to be curious about quiet, introspective people. Kim had me burning with a curiosity that was left unfulfilled that week, but a year later that changed. I was in town and I wondered if she would want to have coffee.Kim & I
We ended up sharing the morning and a few tears together. When I left, I walked out the door with a precious gift – the first few chapters of a book she was writing. I read it all in one sitting that night in our hotel room. I felt strangely cleansed in the remnants of salty tears and trembling sobs. The offering of her mother-heart revived the decaying corners of my own. Schema of a Soul reminded me that I’m alive. And I need to live like it.

Since then we have become good friends with Kim and Jim, staying in each other’s homes and sharing in each other’s experience of writing, family and business. Kim taught me how to make the most amazing bagels and I facilitated a few of her speaking engagements. When I couldn’t decide where to focus my writing efforts, she steered me back toward Frozen. It is a rich friendship, despite the distance between us. That is why I chose Kim’s book to be the first book I feature in the Book Impact series on this blog.

Schema of a Soul

In this book, Kimberlye Berg shares about the deep relational and spiritual struggles she faced with her family when they lost their oldest son/brother in a car accident. She writes to her husband, reflecting on their experience and utilizing beautiful metaphors from his experience in architecture.

Kim gave me the opportunity to share my endorsement in the book:

When the raging winds of pain below, we yearn for a safe shelter for our souls. The beautiful tapestry of practical and spiritual connections woven in schema of a soul wrapped securely around the reader, offering connection where there is isolation, vision where there is chaos, and faith where there is doubt. Whether you seek to understand and comfort those who mourn or you were aware of your own pain, nestle in. And may sacrificial love demonstrate the truth of it strength in you. p.9

Quotes from the Book

IMG_5437Seldom can you know what time last words will come to you. All words hold the potential of being last words. p. 23

He suggested we were being invited to enter into a place where, if we would go, could lead us to knowing God in ways we never had before. It would be hard. Uncomfortable. Take time. Or. We could try to get back into life the best we could. Fill the pain with work, Getting over it, and moving on. We would need to choose. One or the other.

It is a daunting thing to feel and seriously wrestle with intense pain deep within your soul, intense questions regarding everything you thought you believed about God. Many of us go to great extent in trying to evade soul pain, as if that would be the most noble choice. We focus instead on being busy. We are very busy, proud people, and we desperately want to be happy people, not sad. p.64

Pain and heartache are indescribable to someone who has never been inside of them. There was absolutely nothing anyone could do to make us feel better. That was the wrong battle, and we intuitively knew it deep within. p.64-65

We have been soaking wet and all drenched in ugly together, but in our weeping we have been been discovering the more that transcends the pain. p.136

 

Share this post on social media and comment to let me know you did. Please let me know if you share! You will be entered to win a copy of Schema Of A Soul.

 

Questions for the author, Kimberlye Berg

I would love for you each to meet Kim. Here are some wise thoughts from her about pain and loss.

2014_sept_kb_01-21. What one thing do you want us to remember when we face deep pain and loss?
I hope you remember this: Embrace pain and sorrow as an invitation to know and relate with God in this holy place. It is in this place that He does some of his deepest work in forming you, shaping you, sculpting your soul. Enfold yourself in what it really means that God loves you with an eternal love. A sacrificial love that has battled death and emerged stronger than death. He invites you to know and love Him in this place, to love others as He has loved you. Seeking soul to soul spiritual affection, you are invited into the fullest of relational soul to relational soul life even in the emptiest of places.

2. What can we do to support our friends and family when the face deep pain and loss?
I hope you will not put the burden on them to make you feel better because you want to “help” them. One of the most common comments is ” I don’t want to make you cry…” Like it is you that will make them cry. Realize your words can be subtlety demanding. If I sense you are not afraid to be with me where I am in my pain, I will feel some sense of hope. This will cost you something. You may need to think hard about what that is. Think in terms of being “with” rather than of “helping.”

Book and Author Information

For questions or more information about Kim, please click the following links. And if you read Schema of a Soul, please consider posting a review on Amazon.com.

Purchase Schema of a Soul: (Click Here)

Invite Kimberlye Berg to speak to your church or event: (Click Here)

Follow Schema of a Soul on Facebook: (Click Here)

 

This is a beautiful video tribute to Michael and Courtney made by Kim’s daughter, Megan Berg.

 

19 January 2013 from Megan Berg on Vimeo.

What The “Movie Move” Means To A 5 Year Old

Last weekend I had one of my favorite dates ever – with our 5 ½ year old son, Grant. After a quick trip to Burger King to devour his cheeseburger and strawberry-banana smoothie, we headed home to watch Planes Fire & Rescue. I brought three baskets of laundry out to the living room but when the he invited me to sit next to him, I decided not to multi-task the little guy.

He snuggled into my arm for a while until the heat from the fire got to him. Not long after that the intensity of the movie heightened and the date became epic.

Oh my! What’s going to happen?! This is kind of scary!

Grant gently put his arm around my back and began to pat my shoulder. In an upbeat voice he said, “It’s OK mom. It will be OK. I’ve seen it before and it will be OK.”  Movie Move

I melted into my son. He held my heart in his sweet hands and we connected deeply. At the tender age of five, the kid saw me in my distress and reached out to comfort me the same way I often comfort him. He knows instinctively what most of us push away by the time we are adults: tender touch and acknowledgement of distress is comforting, lessoning our experience of pain.

I’m not sure when it is that people begin to resist giving and receiving physical expressions of comfort. At some point it seems we get the message we need to be tough, not letting physical or emotional pain get to us. Shake it off. Deny it’s presence. Use distraction to keep from feeling it. Stay away and I won’t cry.

I suppose each of these strategies has its merits. The fact is that neuroscience is making interesting breakthroughs in understanding pain as a perception translated in the brain. Both physical and emotional pain are processed similarly and thus intimately tied. I hate to admit it, but the more I learn about it, the more I realize that pain is indeed all in my head.

But one fascinating aspect of physical and emotional distress is that their relief is also intimately tied. When I comfort Grant by kissing his wounds, he literally feels better! When I deny him my attention, his experience of physical pain is apparently worse. It is a lot easier to see this in a child. Young children still want to be comforted by a person.

The same is true of me. When I feel emotional or physical pain, my initial reaction is to physically or verbally throw my hand up. Hand

Stay away! I don’t want you to touch me!

Why? Because I don’t want to cry in your presence. If you offer comfort and I am actually comforted by you, you hold my heart in your hands – and I’m not sure I can trust you with my heart, so I’ll just scare you or push you away.

Is it possible to be deeply connected to another person if we refuse their comfort?

Here are a couple of things I’ve learned from our kids and my own experience needing comfort:

  • The gruffest reaction comes from the most tender heart. See tears under the refusal of comfort and under the anger.
  • Ease your way in. When I am overwhelmed and throwing a grown-up tantrum, I need some perspective. But I won’t be ready to receive that perspective until you reach out. I often rub lotion on the back of a child throwing a tantrum. It is a physical reminder that we are not fundamentally and irreversibly screwed up in each other’s eyes.
  • It is easiest to receive comfort from someone who isn’t afraid of being comforted themselves. If you aren’t comforted in your own pain, you won’t be able to truly comfort someone else.

I hope Grant continues to use the movie move  – to comfort others with the same kind of comfort he receives.

Like Andrea Joy Wenburg on Facebook for additional information about pain perception and sensitivity.