Sharing Your Problem May Be Better Than Solving It
By Beth Demme
As soon as I walked in, I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, allowing the funky old-house smell to fill my pores. “I love the way your house smells,” I told my friend Becky. She stared at me like she was waiting for a punchline. I continued, “Really, I do.” Seeing she didn’t believe me, I quickly added, “It reminds me of the house I grew up in!”
A deep laugh rolled out of her. She has a great laugh, but I thought hey, why is she laughing at me?
“Can you believe I was worried to have you over because of how this old place smells?”
“Really?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.
If I had known it bothered her, I never would have mentioned it, but it turns out, the thing she worried would offend me actually brought me comfort and made me feel welcome.
Have you ever seen how this happens? How something we think will bother people, actually becomes helpful or healing for them?
See, I grew up in an old house. It was a sprawling ranch with huge windows that overlooked a road aptly named Scenic Hwy. I have tons of wonderful memories from that house, like the sound of the screen door slamming closed. We didn’t leave the house without calling out, “I love you!” The screen door was the friendly exclamation point punctuating our declaration of love. The creak and slap of the door were the sounds of happiness and belonging.
Sometimes, like at Becky’s house that day, a sound or a smell will create a flashback to my old house and those sweet memories.
Becky had no idea I would cherish being in her home. She had to go a little outside of her comfort zone to invite me over. This makes me wonder: What is the old house smell in my own life? In yours? What am I trying to hide, ignore, or change because I’m worried about what other people will think? If I can find the courage to share openly, is it possible people might find comfort?
Sometimes, the very thing we are trying to hide is the thing that will bring someone else comfort or peace.
I’ve seen this in speaking with different women’s groups. It took me a long time to admit my struggles with anger. Now, when I talk about being an angry mommy, lots of women in the audience make eye contact and nod their heads. Some even wipe away tears. They find peace and comfort in knowing they aren’t alone.
You might not be an angry parent, but maybe you have a temper at work or in traffic. Perhaps your struggle isn’t anger at all, but you shop compulsively, have a rocky marriage, or just never feel like you are enough. Maybe you’re a few years into a career that doesn’t actually suit you and you wonder if you are brave enough to make a change. Maybe today you just feel inexplicably lonely.
We all need to be more like Becky — we don’t need to change the way our house smells before we invite someone over. We don’t have to solve our problems before we talk about them. We need to get beyond thinking: “Sure, I’ll talk about my issues, once I have a solution I can share.”
I think this is why Ecclesiastes says, “Two people are better than one. They can help each other in everything they do. Suppose someone falls down. Then his friend can help him up.” (Eccl. 4:9-10. NIrV) Our friends aren’t there only to hear our solutions, they are there to help us up.
There’s probably someone in your life who would look at herself differently if she knew more of your story. Someone who could take solace and find freedom because of the imperfections in your life. That person doesn’t need your solution, she needs to know she’s not alone.
I bet you need that too. For me, identifying and sharing my problems has actually made them seem smaller and made them easier to solve. I have found that when we stop hiding and start sharing, redemption presents itself.
What do you think? Has someone’s willingness to share made you feel less alone? Are you willing to share your problems or do you wait and share your solutions? Send me a Tweet or an email, or post to my Facebook page and tell me about it.