How we respond to others in the manifestation of their pain is a reflection of how we care for our own heart and react to our own pain. One cannot connect to another’s heart and pain in healing ways, unless they have first experienced a healing connection to their own. That’s a scary journey, to face one’s own self and all that lies within the heart, including all the shame, fear and judgment towards the heart’s tenants.
The journey inward is one in which the individual begins to look at themselves and the internal world that has been shrouded by shame. Every emotion, desire, need, want, and the intensity of each has been contaminated by shame’s presence, winding and entangling itself around normal human inclinations and needs.
But in barricading and protecting the self from a heart saturated by shame, we develop defenses to navigate and function through life. We intellectualize, introspect, minimize, catastrophize, deny, over-spiritualize, devalue, over-care for others, enable, develop attachments to help cope, push down, channel through something, become passive, deflect, blame, etc. all to avoid the inescapable vulnerability of exposure to our own heart.
Why? Because we have not yet encountered a Love that is tender, merciful, safe, present and deeply caring. It is a Love that truly listens. It is a Love that does not come through intellect or memorizing or reading Scripture, but through an actual vulnerable encounter where the self meets the God that Scripture points to. We can read all we want, but it can never substitute for the real face-to-face presence.
As we encounter our own hearts obstructed by shame and judgment, we inevitably experience God’s presence. The two cannot be separated, for the heart cries out for the Heart Maker.
And when we welcome that which surfaces in our hearts it is because we stopped living out of defense, for we have engaged with a Love that does not push what lies within away or respond out of repulsion.
So if we respond to another’s pain, or the coping strategy to such pain, with judgment or attempts to numb them from their own pain, most likely we do the same to our own emotional self and behavior (and there are several approaches in which we respond in dismissive ways).
One who welcomes and takes care to see the other in their emotional state, listening in a way that opens up the heart even wider, has encountered both a welcoming and the Loving Invitation into their own heart.