When was the last time you found yourself in the midst of a struggle? When was the last time you told someone you were struggling? Struggles happen… sometimes daily – even hourly, if we’re being honest. We struggle in school, friendships, marriages and family relationships, parenting, and jobs. We struggle in navigating this life, but if you look around, I’m guessing most of you see what I do – little-to-no evidence of struggle. Oh sure, watch the news and there is plenty of it, but what about from the people around us? Our co-workers, acquaintances, family members, friends? So if there is so much struggle (we all know there is), why don’t we talk about it? Why is it that we look around and see so little of the mess that is alive and well in so many of our lives?
I have one answer: I believe there is a perception in our society that struggle equals weakness. We shouldn’t struggle. We should be strong. We should be able to just handle things, no matter how messy they get. And as we are handling our struggles on our own, we should keep up the proper appearance of having picture-perfect lives by documenting all of our perfection on facebook, Instagram, blogs, and all other applicable social media platforms.
I wish I could say I have never had this mindset, but at various times in my life, I have. At various times in my life I did not want to let anyone see my struggle because I didn’t think it should be that big of a deal. I thought I should be able to handle it better/on my own/without anyone knowing, etc. Of course, the times I felt this way were times when my perception was that no one else around me was struggling. Notice I wrote that was my perception. Who knows what I would have actually found out had I opened up to just one person and revealed my fears, vulnerabilities, and difficulties.
Quite a few years ago, my sister and I were each going through our own divorce. Yep, our divorces overlapped. It was, to say the least, a trying time in our family. Through many months of difficulty, pain, uncertainty, and healing, my sister and I spoke on the telephone daily. One of us would call the other (she was typically the faithful caller) in the morning while driving to work. It quickly became our routine, and honestly, our therapy. We helped one another tremendously, and watched each other grow as we vented and cried and healed.
I can happily say that my sister is one of my closest friends, but I haven’t always been able to say that. Like any relationship, ours has had its share of ups and downs… struggles. The year we were in high school together was probably the worst of my parents’ lives. They got to listen to us argue every morning while we got ready for school in the bathroom we shared. The year we were in college together was one of the best years of my life. The memories we made and the time we had together sans parents was truly wonderful. In the years since, we have grown close and then drifted apart more times than I can count. Now, I think we are the closest we have ever been, and that is largely due to our transparency and vulnerability with one another. We share our struggles without judgment or fear of the same. Sometimes our struggles are eerily similar, and other times we find it difficult to imagine going through the same difficulty. But two things are always the same: we grow closer through sharing with one another, and we grow stronger by leaning on one another.
So we can gain strength when we share our struggles with others. Often we learn that we’re not alone and that the person with whom we are sharing has had a similar struggle or is, at the very least, a really awesome listener who can empathize with us. I know how powerful it is to hear someone say, “me too.” I know how powerful it is to hear someone say, “I went through something very similar.” I know how powerful it is to hear someone say, “I can relate.” If I never shared my struggle, I would never hear those powerful words. Those powerful words have helped shore me up for the rest of the battle, and have given me courage in dark moments.
We can also often gain strength just by going through struggles. If we never had difficult times, how would we grow? I type this as I find myself in the midst of a tremendous struggle, so I know how trite and cliché my words sound. But I also know they are true, because the struggle I am facing right now is not my first, and it’s probably not my most difficult. Right now, honestly, I am wondering how this struggle is going to lead to growth, because sometimes I think it might actually lead to regression! But because of what I have endured in the past, I am pretty confident there will be something positive that emerges out of my current difficulty.
I think our society equates struggle with weakness, but I propose that struggle really equals strength. There is no shame in struggling. Everyone does it. Everyone faces difficult times. Share your struggle, and find your strength.