I think if you were to corner anyone who has personally known me at any point throughout my life, and you were to ask them what is one of my biggest personal character flaws, I believe that they would unanimously say, “He can give the impression that he just doesn’t care.” Conveying empathy has been something I have been intentionally working on as of late. Admittedly, I have kept from developing a lot of meaningful relationships in my life as a result of the defense mechanism I developed as a youth to keep everyone at a distance. So for the most part I tend to keep conversation light, even with people that I know, almost instinctually ensuring I keep most people at an arm’s length from really getting to know me and vice versa.
But as of late I have been trying. I have been trying to convey my thoughts and feelings to friends and family in a meaningful way that grows and strengthens the relationships. I shared with a good friend from church that his good heart and caring soul is an inspiration in my life. I have been more intentional with my wife on telling her what she means in my life. And this past weekend I even gave one of my brothers and my sister a call to catch up on life, something I need to do more than just around the holidays.
It does feel great to be connected and plugged into other people’s lives. But it can be exhausting, especially since I have spent the majority of my life avoiding being apart of other people’s lives. The rollercoaster of emotions and real nature of life, as I’m finding, wear me down when I care about others. In just the last week alone one relative of mine and her husband lost their expected baby, another relative is going through a divorce and a good friend broke his nose.
Sending condolences to one, being a listener for another and waiting at the hospital with our friend, all of it has put me in a place that I have avoided for a long time: being present and vulnerable to others. And though emotionally draining for everyone involved, being there to support others is something I want to become second nature.
In a bigger picture kind of way I see it this way. Life is a rollercoaster of highs and lows. I almost feel like cleaning up our own financial lives is the easy part. I mean the plan I have been following is pretty clear cut in its steps and procedures: get an emergency fund, snowball the debt, invest 15% for retirement, save for kids’ college and pay cash for a house. On the life side though things aren’t clear cut. We can’t anticipate or even envision the thought of losing a child, the loss of a relationship or the loss of our physical well-being (even for the short term). But I can promise anyone reading this that I will continue to be more intentional to care and love on others, whether hurting or not, because that is the kind of person that I want to become.