We hear in workplaces and coffee shops across the country, “Hi, how are you?” “I’m fine.” These words are the most often repeated lie in the country. Our masks speak for us rather than our hearts. Now if just want someone to go away while you preserve your privacy, I respect that. If you’re afraid that telling the truth of how you are would take too long and would lead to a crying jag, I understand that, too. Been there, done that. But how many of us fall into the trap of thinking that we must always be upbeat, happy, and perfect? How many of us feel like honesty is not the best policy if we’re having a bad day, month, or year? How many of us think we owe everyone a shallow smile rather than, “It’s been a tough week, but I’m hanging in there.”
We all know the women (yes, they’re usually women) that feel that they must always keep their chin up, a smile on their faces, and say everything is wonderful, even when things are falling apart. They tell themselves it’s a bad mood and it will pass in a few more weeks. What about now? Our lives matter. We can trivialize our feelings to look perfect, but it doesn’t change how we feel under the whitewash. Could a breath of fresh air be in order?
We can be a friend by offering a shoulder to cry on, to listen to another’s problems in non-judgment, and open our hearts to hear them. We don’t have to fix their problems. We don’t have to understand why they feel the way they do. Maybe we would’ve done things differently; we can keep that to ourselves. It’s amazing how having someone acknowledging your feelings can help. When someone shares their story, and they’ve been sincerely heard, their burden lifts a little. Being heard is a powerful tool to tell someone how much they matter and how much someone cares. I’ve seen the power of being heard many times; it’s palatable and promotes a little bit of healing. When listening, we are offering the gift of time, focus, and respect. In a time of immediate gratification, mindless entertainment, and the shallow comfort of food, listening to another talk about what troubles them or how they feel is a way to share the burden for just a few minutes and be REAL.
Listening soul-to-soul rather than mask-to-mask means listening without distraction and suspending judgment for the conversation. Asking questions for clarification or insight might be appreciated, but don’t get carried away with the analysis. That can feel critical more than supportive, after all. And we are often critical enough of ourselves that we don’t need another’s criticism too. When we listen, soul-to-soul, we see the spark of the divine in the other, acknowledge how hard it is when we are distanced from the light, and remind the other of their divinity. It doesn’t get better than that.
This article was previously published in the November issue of Sibyl Magazine.