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January 10, 2015, 12:00 AM

Sharing Tradegies

There is an old saying that says "A sorrow shared is a sorrow divided; a joy shared is a joy multiplied." Suffering, after all, is universal. We all experience it. We all understand it. No matter what our social or economic standing, no matter our culture or nationality, no matter our gender or age, we all know suffering. And yet, suffering is also utterly intimate: You may have grieved, but you have never experienced my personal grief. You may have lost a parent, a spouse, or (God forbid) a child, but you have never lost MY parent, MY spouse, MY child.

If I share my sorrow with 9 other people, then there are 10 of us bearing the burden. If I share with 99 others, then there are 100, and so on. And yet we're unwilling to share our burdens. We don't want to be a "bother". We think our own problems and sorrows are too difficult for others to bear or, conversely, that they are too "insignificant" in the grand scheme of things to warrant anyone else's attention. And so, we take our sorrows and grief, and wrap them around us like a blanket.

And, while we as a society are very good about responding to immediate tragedy with casseroles and well-wishes, we too often are unwilling to offer any actual support. We establish Care groups in churches but avoid eye contact with the grieving  in our midst. We pray for and offer meaningless platitudes to the young couple who lost their child, but avoid any actual conversation that may be too difficult.

And so suffering, which should draw us all together, actually separates and isolates us. We need to be willing to be transparent, to expose our own vulnerabilities; conversely, we need to learn to love and support one another without judgment. Our society and culture are not good at encouraging these qualities, as we traditionally value individuality and perceive strength as portrayed by the cowboys, the Rambos, the John McClanes in "Die Hard", who handle everything themselves. That's not real. That's not the community that Christ calls us to.

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