In The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Robin advises a young follower, “Tell us thy troubles and speak freely. A flow of words doth ever ease the heart of sorrows; it is like opening the waste where the mill dam is overfull.”
Robin Hood was trying to set an environment where people were free to share their burdens and find peace and safety. Isn’t that something we all want? Being able to share our sorrows not only releases our burdens, it empowers us to feel like we aren’t alone. We have someone who will enter our pain.
God has designed us to be in community. This inner desire for connections draws us to people. But the fear of being hurt puts us on guard. When we share areas that are vulnerable, we can be easily crushed.
Intellectually, we know about the medical benefits of sharing our troubles, but fear holds us back. We feel stuck. Will people really understand our pain? Will they judge me? Will they dismiss my pain and quote a Bible verse?
Until we boldly confront the fears we want to avoid, those fears will control our lives. Being able to share our pain is vital to recovery. The cautionary tale from the Sherwood Forest is finding someone who is safe. When we share with the wrong person we are crushed. Who is safe? How do we become safe people? Here are some qualities of a safe person:
They listen. (James 1:19)
- That doesn’t mean just being quiet when someone is talking.
- It is being engaged, asking questions. (See my post on The Art of Listening for details.)
They are humble. (Philippians 2:3-4)
- We need to recognize we are all broken and are in need of a Savior.
- A safe person is self-aware. They don’t think of themselves as having it all together. They are aware of their own weaknesses and thus willing to serve. (See my post on Self-Awareness)
They express heartfelt compassion. (Colossians 3:12)
- They reflect back both the content of your words and the emotions behind them.
They are willing to give gentle honest feedback. (2 Timothy 2:25)
- We don’t need people just agreeing with us. We need people who will listen and gently ask questions that help us think through issues.
- We don’t need someone lecturing at us.
- It is not about making a point; it is about making a difference.
They are there through the pain. (Romans 12:15)
- Sometimes we feel inadequate to help others. We are afraid of saying the wrong thing. One of the most loving things we can do for others is being there — sitting with them, giving them a shoulder to cry on, a hug.
We all long for a Sherwood Forest experience. However, there are many dangers in the forest. Not everyone is a Robin Hood. We need to choose wisely before we share our pain.
I encourage you to examine the five characteristics above. Do they describe you? Are there areas you need to work on? God has called his church to be this type of community. Too often we fall short. We are all in process. Let’s strive to be the type of community who welcomes those in pain.
If you are in pain, choose wisely who you share with. Please feel free to contact us at Restore and Rebuild. We would love to walk with you through your journey.