We are living in a culture of quick fixes, convenience and avoidance of pain at all costs. We can see on the political stage, in schools, in businesses and in relationships at large that this addiction to ease is breeding both apathy and entitlement.
I see children expecting that their parents will simply take care of things for them, rather than parents expecting children to step up and struggle a bit to learn to take care of things for themselves. If we as parents constantly carry our children’s things for them, ask them to make all the choices as to what will happen, or give in to every request without setting boundaries, what else can we expect other than to generate young adults who don’t know how to manage life for themselves? If we ease every pain and make it all better all the time, how can they learn to see the struggles in life and understand that these struggles, while very uncomfortable, can be worked through? More importantly, how will our children learn what true compassion looks like if we don’t model supportively allowing them to have their experience as they wrestle with their own learning?
I was speaking with a human resources director not too long ago who shared that she got a call from the parent of one of the company’s young employees. This parent was calling to address an issue her child was having with her boss. I was absolutely shocked! It would never occur to me to ask my parent to address an issue I was having at my job, even if I was working a summer job as a teenager, let alone as an adult employed full time with a company. The parent wanted to “make it all better” for her child. Rather than teaching her child the skills to work through difficulties herself, she continued, even into her child’s adulthood, to do it for her.
A few years ago, I was having a conversation with someone about compassion. I was sharing how painful it can be when being in compassion. He said, “You can choose not to be compassionate.” I found this an odd response, and asked what he meant. We were driving through town at the time, and he said, “Well, like with that homeless person over there begging for money on the corner. If I think about their plight, it is painful for me. I can choose not to think about it and not go into that pain.” His response was an eye opener for me. I thought about all the times so many of us, myself included, so easily turn a blind eye or ignore what we see, all for the sake of avoiding pain.
What both of these examples have in common is the lack of heartbreak.
The parent isn’t willing to feel the heartbreak required to see her child struggle. The child/employee isn’t willing to experience the heartbreak required to have the challenging and difficult conversation with her boss. My friend wasn’t willing to experience the heartbreak required to truly see the homeless person.
There is heartbreak everywhere, and facing it often keeps us from seeing the reality of what is and moving forward in our lives. Without heartbreak, there is no growth. We don’t want to have that difficult conversation that might change someone’s life. We don’t want to change course on the path we have been on for so long, knowing how difficult it will be to start over, and out of fear of being judged for adjusting course. We don’t want to leave a relationship that isn’t working, or take the chance of being rejected in the effort to develop a new relationship.
We are all afraid of heartbreak. Let’s face it. It’s one of the most trying experiences any of us will ever have. Yet, every one of us will go through it. We will suffer. We will hurt. We will have moments in which it feels like our heart is being torn out of our chest, chewed up and spit out. You’ve likely already had moments like this, and most likely, you became stronger for it, more aware, or more understanding.
Heartbreak is the grinding stone against the grain, which is necessary to create the essential, refined flour that becomes the bread of life.
What would it be like if we were all willing to let our heart break a little more? How much more compassion would we feel? How much more understanding would we have for others and for life? If we could really go to the pain in our heart when we think of the earth and her suffering creatures, would we stand by and allow the devastation that is happening to our planet? If we allowed ourselves to consider how those in war torn countries live every day, would we so easily feel removed from the war, able to ignore it? What new possibilities and action might emerge if we allowed our hearts to break and bring new life to our sense of connection and purpose?
In our time of struggle, when so many people feel aimless, depressed, purposeless and longing for direction, I challenge you to allow your heart to break. Notice what breaks your heart. Make a list of those things. Which one breaks it the most when you really allow yourself to be with it? Perhaps within this heartbreak is a gift that is waiting to be brought to the surface toward the much needed change in the world. What hurts so much that you don’t want to face it? Can you allow your heart to break open, layer by layer, so that it can ultimately be filled with a love and purpose and sense of direction that has been evasive for so long?
We need to let our hearts break, but most of us need to have some reassurance that we’ll be ok if we do. There are certainly no guarantees, but we can take great comfort in looking at Mother Nature. Year to year, season to season, things sprout, grow, blossom, fruit, wither and die, and renew. Each day the sun rises. Each spring, the birds return, and the dead looking branches begin to bud with their inviting blossoms.What would it take to have more faith in life itself, in the process of growth and evolution? What is needed to embrace the challenges, the pain, the sorrow and the heartbreak required to move along life’s magical path of growth? What heartbreak, once allowed, would allow you to emerge as your true, authentic self and soar to heights unimagined?
May the pain and sorrow of heartbreak teach our hearts to soar, and connect us all more deeply on our soul’s journey.