Step 1: Be Others Focused and Available

We Must Resist Being Self-Absorbed To Live-Connected

Pain, sorrow, and trouble are inevitable for all of us, regardless of where we live and how we live. It’s just reality on this side of Heaven. We are all hurting and broken at some level, with conflict, judgments, and misunderstandings causing disconnected relationships. And then there is physical pain, emotional pain, financial pain, and spiritual pain that overwhelms and weighs us down. At any given moment, we are either in between trials or in the middle of one. For some, life is much harder than for others, but we all get our turn.

Consumed by all our personal troubles, we tend to live our lives focused on ourselves, our pain, and our circumstances. Our daily and sometimes hourly preoccupation is to get relief. We often walk around in a functional fog, going through the motions of life; we worry, cry, get frustrated and angry, and isolate ourselves. We disconnect.

We all have a story of painful circumstances, relationships, and financial or physical pain. We naturally live our lives hoping others will see our pain, empathize with us, and understand our brokenness.

The reality is that if all of us are absorbed in our own pain, we can be of little help to others who are hurting. Yet, we expect someone to pay attention to our problems and offer help. We become much more interested and preoccupied with our own brokenness, and we can’t and don’t respond to others who are hurting. We all have a story, and we want others to want to hear about it. This leaves little room to enter into someone else’s story in a soul-healing way.

God tells us to run a race in the opposite direction in a world consumed with self-care, self-love, and self-confidence. He calls us to love Him and to love others. We were made for relationships with Him and with each other. When God made the world, He said it was all good except for one thing … that man was alone.

We were made to connect. One result of being made in God’s image is that we instinctively desire fellowship with one another. We are meant to do life together and be connected. When we are disconnected or isolated, that does not help heal our pain or what caused it.

How do our wounds help heal others? They don’t. It’s not our wounds that help heal others. Rather, our wounds can color our gifts and talents so that they no longer invite resistance and envy in others but instead become what God meant them to be: gifts to grace others.

Here’s how that algebra works: Our gifts are given to us not for ourselves but for others. But to be that, they need to be colored by compassion. We come to compassion by letting our wounds activate our gifts. 

The loss of a spouse invokes heartache that often equips a widow to lead a support group. After making her way through the grieving process, the wound that is left can give a unique understanding to a widow who finds healing. With that understanding, she can use that painful experience as a gift and compassionately lead others through the process of healing.

When we lost our adult son Lee, the people that gave us the most insight and peace were the couples who had lost a child. Six months after losing Lee, I talked with a friend who lost his teenage son twenty years ago. I struggled to manage my emotions when people asked how I was progressing. I asked my friend how long it took for him to find a way to talk about the death of his son without getting so emotional. He told me that he learned not to set any expectations or try to mask his pain…, and then he cried. He told me that he was now hoping that he would always have the pain and the tears that helped him relive the memories of his son. His wound became a gift to me.

Our gifts are real and important, but they only grace others when they are shaped into a special kind of compassion by the uniqueness of our own wounds. Our unique, special wounds can help make each of us a unique healer.

Our first step in living connected is to live others-focused and available. When we can do that, we open our eyes and our hearts to seeing, feeling, understanding, and helping heal one another.