Thursday, February 19, 2015

Giving a Balanced Witness

"I just can't stand it when someone has nothing but negative things to say about pregnancy."

We've both had a baby or two and we agree.  We've talked about this before, how negativity weighs on the recipient of complaints. How hurtful a bleak outlook can be on someone who wants what you have. Negativity dries you out, steals your joy and that of those around you. It can drift over a conversation like smoke, inhaled secondhand by those who overhear it, poisoning us all.

But what is the alternative? The opposite of the incessant drip of complaints can be an almost saccharine sweetness. And, to the point of the conversation at hand, the only thing harder to swallow than someone bemoaning the many discomforts of pregnancy in a constant dirge of self pity is someone to whom the whole thing is sunshine and lollipops. Both are irritating. Both for the same reasons.

Both constant complaints and rose colored glasses miss the mark by being shallow. Neither scrape the surface, dig deeper into the complexities of any situation. Both run the risk of stealing joy - One, for discounting the possibility of it at all, and the other for being so shallowly planted that any difficulty threatens to rain on the parade.

It's that kind of outlook, that all or nothing, misery or bliss way of viewing life that runs in clear opposition to the upside down grace that God calls us to. The closer I draw to Him, the more I can see how sufferings transform into a deeper beauty than simple ease ever could. That pinning gratitude only on the things that go exactly how I planned them is an exercise in constant disappointment - and the missing out of a much deeper intensity of joy.

That all being said, giving a balanced witness is an art form. Something I'm far from adept at, constantly tweaking and learning. I leave some conversations thinking, "Why did I just say that? Did it sound overly negative?" or "Why did I paint that as being so easy? I know it's not!" It's a thin line to walk, especially when you want to be an encouragement.

It isn't encouraging to someone struggling to hear how easy and wonderful things are. It isn't encouraging to someone bright eyed and optimistic to hear how difficult and painful life is. There needs to be a balance. There is a balance, but articulating it requires more thought than I always want to put into it.

I have a friend who has this nailed down. A wise Mama of many children who has been exactly where I am and has seen the other side. Her words are always encouraging yet challenging. Full of joy yet sprinkled with reality. She acknowledges hardship and rains down grace. She is an inspiration. She fully "gets" it.

This Lent, I'm focusing on relationships.  Some in my life are complicated, some more surface. Some are tremulous and weak, others are so strong I know I can throw the weight of my heart on them and they will stand up to the pressure. In all, hoping to find the balance of being a truthful witness to the life I've been given - and as a result, an encouragement to all I encounter.

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