Pretending You're Not Sad or In Pain is Dumb
I spent a powerful 48 hours this week with 9 successful men who are doing their best to love their families, be solid leaders, be loyal friends, and pass God’s love on to the world. After a fun round of golf and hanging out getting to know each other, we had dinner where the conversation got real: Our host asked us each to share the biggest challenge we faced in the last year.
You never know how a question like that will go over. Are people going stay superficial? Will anyone really open up? My experience tells me that whoever goes first sets the tone. If the first guy bluffs his way through it, the rest will hover around 80% vulnerable. The opposite is true, too: authenticity begets authenticity.
The first guy talked honestly about a physical ailment he is wrestling with and about the death of a good friend. It wasn’t like his story was particularly gut-wrenching or the most tragic thing you’ve ever heard, but it was as genuine as genuine could be. The rest of the guys followed suit.
Man after man went. A few openly wept. The issues ranged from marriage issues to financial catastrophe to betrayal by business partners. Two said that what they were sharing was the first time they had gone public with it.
I learned three things that night:
1. Pretending you’re not feeling pain or sadness is dumb. Just as authenticity begets authenticity, authenticity is the gateway to personal growth and joy. As I listened to the men in that room-– and as I shared my deal – I sensed a palpable relief amongst us. Like toxins being released from our bodies. Toxins like shame, anger, and fear that dissipate when windows are flung open and fresh air blows through. Confession launches the healing process.
2. I felt compassion. "Compassion" means to have or share the same feeling. I felt anger and shame and fear when those emotions were displayed. And then I felt this urge to help. To do more than commiserate, but to assist in the healing. Hearing about other’s pain also caused me to know I’m not the only guy with issues… and that, relatively speaking, I’m guilty of making mole hills into mountains.
3. The power of a non-judgmental community cannot be underestimated. It’s only in environments like that that the value of confession can be experienced. We’ve learned over the years at the Halftime Institute that it’s rare for people to have a community like this and it’s why we take such pains to develop the right culture for the groups of people going through our Fellows Program.
Here’s my encouragement: If you don’t have a group somewhere in your life where you can get real, get input and not be judged, you’re missing out and probably not growing much. You don’t need 9 people. Even 1 or 2 of the right ones will work. Go find them. Get real. Get joy.