4 truths that bind us together

by Kristin on February 3, 2011

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by rpongsaj

I have to admit, I was overwhelmed by the comments on my previous post, Why I care about divorce stories, not statistics. I was overwhelmed in the best possible way—by the sincerity, the support, the vulnerability, and the sheer number of comments (I’m thrilled if a post I write elicits 10 comments, so triple that and I’m pretty much stunned).

As I think about all of that goodness, I can’t help but wonder: What exactly about that post inspired so much sharing?

Of course, it’s a post with a clear theme: divorce. That has a way of identifying a defined group of people who come out of the woodwork because we’re always longing to feel less alone. And maybe there was some element of caring for and protecting me, at a time when I was feeling a bit wounded by the Huffington Post commenter.

But several of the people who  commented don’t have a personal divorce story, and I don’t think they know me well enough to feel naturally compelled to protect me. There must be some broader truths at work. I took a look at your comments, and these universal feelings stood out:

1. We’re all uncertain and afraid as we face big decisions. We’re forced to make decisions all the time. Some of them affect not just the trajectory of our own lives, but also of the lives of others, like our children. As one commenter, Robin, wrote: “I was completely broken inside and unsure of whether or not I was doing the best thing for my children.” We desperately want a crystal ball to help us see the future and do the best thing. The last thing we need after we’ve made a hard decision is someone claiming we made the worst decision.

2. We all realize that life is capable of taking the most unexpected turns. As ThatGuyKC wrote: “I never thought I’d have parents who were divorced or be a stepdad myself….” We know what we want for our lives. In fact, we probably have fairly clear pictures in our minds of how we imagine our lives will look. And in some respects, we might succeed in living out that life, at least on the surface. But then we meet someone who has cancer, or whose child has a birth defect, or someone who gets a divorce or has to foreclose on their home. We realize they never imagined their lives would take those turns, and we’re left with more compassion for others and more respect for the fragility of our own lives.

3. We’re sick and tired of being judged by people who don’t really know or care about us. Kirstin wrote “I’m always surprised about quantity of judgmental second-guessing that surrounds these issues.” The Modern Gal wrote about her frustration with people who shame others to get them to do what they want: “The holier-than-thou judgment seriously bothers me.” And Jen contrasted what we tend to do with what we should do: “So easy to have an opinion from the outside. So easy to judge the life others live. Much harder to open our hearts and minds, much harder to push ourselves aside and to find love.” I think that’s something we can all relate to, on both sides of the issue.

4. Finally, we crave redemption stories. Paul Merrill described it this way: “…a beautiful picture of how God can redeem hard situations.”  Even more than happy, perfect, ideal versions of life, we want to hear about hope in the midst of the unexpected, messy, disappointing parts of life. We want to believe that just as life can take nasty turns, it can also take turns of beauty and renewal that are beyond our wildest imaginings.

Thank you for joining me on this trek, and for being open and honest about your own struggles and joys.

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  • http://hollyhousestudio.blogspot.com Jennifer

    Let’s keep being open and honest. It helps. It works. It makes community in a world desperately craving it.

  • http://thealchemistblog.wordpress.com Genevieve

    I think we can all relate to the trolling thing. I take anonymous bashing way too seriously, and I’m working on that. To see you emotionally crash to the ground after that woman (or peeved 11 year old with too much Internet time and not enough of mom and dad’s attention) picked a fight was, painfully, like watching myself.

    I’m wondering…are you able to moderate the comments on the huffpost articles? Maybe post a new set of rules for conduct and then have free reign to eliminate anyone who doesn’t engage respectfully?

  • Kirstin

    Trolls are one thing; trolls that ventriloquize the judgmental voices inside our own heads (no matter how much we know better!) are another. I’m so glad you were able to turn that black hole of unproductive nastiness on the Huffington Post into something so positive: first the previous post (that clearly hit a nerve with many!) and now this.

    A common thread among your four items seems to be a resistance to oversimplification. It’s hard to accept life in all its complexity–or to trust oneself to navigate between all the competing relevant concerns that go into every step of difficult personal issues, Simple algorithms (divorce is bad for kids!) offer the comfort of certainty without requiring careful attention to the narrative, much less trust in people to make sense of their own stories.

    Saying that, I immediately become aware of my own pet algorithms. May I only use them to try to understand–not to judge!

  • http://somewiseguy.com ThatGuyKC

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I think #2 is important because it has such broad application. I’ll let you know when I write more on being an adult when my parents split and life as a stepdad.

    Thank you for the encouragement and support. I wouldn’t trade this life for the world.

  • http://www.listenfeelbreathe.com.au David | Listen Feel Breathe

    There are some very hard decisions to make in life at times. I still wonder about several choices that I have made in my adult life.
    I know that I made those choices based on what I believed to be most important at the time. But looking back it is hard to know if I was right or wrong. Some people supported me and others told me I should have done things differently.
    At the end of the day, I have to be confident in myself, that I did what I could, that I was thoughtful and that I had faith and hope in people, in myself and in God.

  • http://pmerrill.com/ Paul Merrill

    Helpful that you made a “part two” to the first post. Thanks!

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Jennifer, here’s to making community—even the uncomfortable way!

    Genevieve, I was frustrated, for sure (and downright angry about the stepfather and suicide references). But in the end, the whole experience was good, because it helped me articulate why I don’t care about those arguments, statistics, or doom-and-gloom people. I can’t moderate the Huffington Post comments, as far as I know, and I’m OK with that. Sure, writing there opens me up to more attack, but the good and bad tend to go hand-in-hand. :)

    Kirstin, I love it when common themes emerge—sometimes I wonder what it is that I’m doing here, and if it has any coherence! A resistance to oversimplification…I like that. Thanks for articulating it, and for being a part of the conversation.

  • http://unrelated.dexterityunlimited.com/ Dan J

    Being a divorced parent myself, I can certainly empathize. Being a blogger as well, I know what trolls are like, and how frustrating it can be to deal with them and others like them. I find myself laughing at them more than anything else, these days. Am I getting more laid-back? More cynical? More jaded? I can’t really say, though a lot more stuff just seems to roll of my back, of late. When it comes to the argument and attack situation, though, I sometimes revel in it (as you might have seen on Twitter). I guess I’m part troll myself sometimes. :)

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    ThatGuyKC, one of the things I’ve discovered through blogging is that many of us can have very different experiences—one person might be single, one married, another divorced—and yet we can find many places where our stories intersect and we can relate. I’m looking forward to your post!

    David, that’s a great perspective to have: “I have to be confident in myself, that I did what I could, that I was thoughtful and that I had faith and hope in people, in myself and in God.” We spend a lot of time second-guessing and beating ourselves up about things that we can’t go back and change (and maybe shouldn’t change, even if we could). It’s far more important to focus on the present moment with thoughtfulness and faith.

    Paul, some issues and ideas are just crying out for a follow up. :) Thanks for your part in this post!

    DanJ, and here I thought I “knew” you, but I didn’t know you were a divorced parent. Each person’s life is so much more complex than we would ever guess! Here’s to you for (mostly) letting stuff roll off your back, and for being bold when engagement is called for.