Fragility in Our Shock

I remember once when my family was going through a hard time, I heard someone express discomfort, and I exploded. I had just come home from work. I was busy with church and evening school. I had to deal with this situation and I couldn’t any more. Well, it just got worse after that. I’ll save you the drama, but needless to say, I wasn’t the only one feeling overwhelmed. The situation still left me with the insight to be careful about expressing my emotions. They need their place, and I have to be selective on who I share them with.

This is why I relate with the term “white woman tears.” I don’t mean to offend anyone with this. In “White Fragility,” the author Robin DiAngelo explains that this occurs when a person is expressing the hurt someone else caused them, and another person listening gets so flabbergasted that the attention turns from the hurt person to the person who reactively hurts. She uses the term “white woman” since she has noticed that this happens when a black person is explaining pain or injustice, and the white woman is so in horror that she in some way has been blamed of this that she bursts into tears.

I was in in awe when I read this. Outside of the racial aspect, I’ve experienced this myself. I’ve opened up just to be told that I have been disrespectful or inconsiderate. I have wanted to explain that something was wrong and have been pushed aside as bossy. I have also been the person on the other side, in awe of being accused, to thankfully come down and see that I was trying to defend myself and that I needed to apologize.

Why do we go into arguments with boxing gloves? Why do we prefer to be right instead of being kind *? Why do we feel the need to prove ourselves? I think that we believe that the other person has the power to take our power away with their thoughts. Do they really? I dare to say no. There are things that they can take, but not our power over ourselves. That’s why time and time again, we ought to use our two ears and listen twice as much as we speak with our one mouth.

Listening is so important, that the Bible states that it is how we receive faith (Romans 10:17). It is so important that because Eve listened to the serpent, she fell into sin, dragging Adam and humanity with her. When we listen, we humble ourselves and give the other person the chance to be themselves. We don’t have to agree in order to be respectful, but we do need to give others their space.

I am very thankful to have grown up with a mother who told me that I could say anything I thought, as long as it was in a respectful manner. With that phrase, she gave me permission to be open and created one of the building blocks of our relationship. She empowered me to stand up for myself and not be afraid of the world.

How much could we achieve by giving someone a chance to tell us their story? We could start seeing things with their eyes and be brave, and take the opportunity to make a change for the best.

Next time that you are confronted with a situation, take a chance to listen before planning or responding. Give the person the place they deserve, next to yours, and give yourself the opportunity to serve someone. Lending an ear can bring us to strong togetherness.

* I only heard the quote and have not read any material from the owner: “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” Dr. Wayne Dyer.

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