I got a chance to sit with a friend the other day who has endured some serious pain in her recent past and it doesn’t appear that it will be easing up anytime soon. There are parts of her story I can relate to, but most of it is well beyond my scope of experience. If I could intervene and wave a magic wand to fix it all, I would do it in a heartbeat, even it cost me dearly. I would pay the price to make it go away for her. But I cannot.
There’s not one single thing I can do to make it better.
As I listened to her story I had to silence the fixer-upper voice in my head trying to fill in all the gaps with wisdom and experience. I could feel her pain across the table and I SO desperately wanted to take it away so she could get back to living her one and only beautiful life. But all I could do was sit. Just listen. Be a safe place for her to feel seen, heard, and loved unconditionally.
It reminded me of this quote:
“Pain is a reliable path to maturity, which is a TERRIBLE SYSTEM. I’ve seen my older kids come through some devastation, and they are now young adults who are better prepared for real life. Isn’t that just awful comfort?? So until we learn to shut off the valve, the best thing I’ve learned from my kids is to draw near, cry right alongside them, listen with kindness, and promise them they are not alone in their sadness because you are there. This matters. They remember this. We can fix so very little, but we can give them a soft, safe place to fall. Much love to you, Mama.” ~ Jen Hatmaker
This is true for friendships, too.
Your friends are going through painful things. They may or may not be talking about it, but it’s reliable. You can count on it. Just like we can’t shelter our kids from pain. You most likely can’t fix it for your friends. Most of the time, they’re going to make it through. But the very best thing you can do is to draw near to them. Cry right alongside them.
Listen with kindness and promise them they aren’t alone.
A parent would never intentionally circumvent a child’s path to maturity. As much as it hurts, they have to learn their own way. The same is true with our friends. All of our “wisdom and experience” can’t fix it for them. And quite honestly, even if it could, you wouldn’t want it to.
You wouldn’t want to short-cut their path to maturity.
Because, just like my friend’s path, as painful as it may be at times – it IS her one and only beautiful life. Or as Glennon Doyle calls it, Brutiful life. Just like Me Ra’s story from the One Word GNO, her pain has been a reliable path to her maturity. This is her path. No matter how hard it is, it’s the one that’s making her the woman she’s supposed to be. It’s calling her to something deeper. Just like broken bones heal stronger in the broken places, it’s requiring her to break to become stronger. I want the very, very best for my friend.
So I am practicing being present, and not letting go.
She needs to know that no matter how much thrashing she does on the other end of the rope. Just like I shared in this blog: I won’t let go. I won’t let go because I know that her pain is leading her to her beauty. It certainly doesn’t feel that way today, but if she will just keep going, keep doing the next right thing, a beautiful, strong, and wise woman will emerge on the other side. She most certainly won’t look anything like the 20-something she once was, she’ll be so much more beautiful.
I’m holding the rope for her and I won’t let go.
She’s holding the rope for me, and I know she won’t let go.
This is what friendship looks like on the reliable path to maturity.
It’s not easy. But it’s worth it.
Who’s holding the rope for you today?
Who needs you to hold the rope and not let go?
Don’t try to fix it. Just hold on.
to more love,
p.s. If you want some time to “simply be” with a friend or two in the month of February. We created the Galentine’s Sip & Stroll Girls Night Out, just for you. There will be time to play, be pampered, create, and/or space to sit and chat.
image credit: J Kaye Photography