Last night I caught up on an episode of This is Us from a few weeks ago and I straight up ugly cried for an hour.
Before you continue to read this, there will be This is Us spoilers from weeks ago for those of you who are like me and watch shows a way late on Hulu. Just want to give my kind of people a heads up.
This is Us can be emotional AF, but last night it triggered more than your regular hypothetically fabricated emotion.
You see, since Valentine’s Day my emotions had been stuck in an anger that almost felt hopeless. More kids were slain inside their classrooms, more teachers lost their lives trying to shield children from bullets, and another white guy became a mass murderer. We are the only developed nation where this shit happens on the regular and we are the only developed nation that has refused to do anything about it.
On Thursday, my husband went into a local gun store near our children’s school and tried to buy an AR-15 and found out that in our state you don’t need a license to buy this weapon designed for mass killing like you do for a handgun. You can walk into a gun shop and as long as you pass an immediate background check, you can walk out with an AR-15. You can even finance it if you are short on cash.
It’s fucking ridiculous the lack of restrictions on these weapons, and by the way, if you want White Christian America to get really mad and want to kill you, just make a video criticizing lax gun laws. Laws that every other developed nation has gotten strict on and the results have been no mass shootings.
See, I am still pissed. I guess I will never not be raging angry that we are willing to sacrifice our children’s lives for our ability to easily purchase mass killing machines. Honestly, we should be angry. We have every right to be outraged beyond belief.
I don’t know if you are like this too, but anger in regards to social issues fuels a few things within. It fuels me to speak bolder. It fuels me to work harder. And it overwhelms my emotions putting me into a fast paced “problem solving” mode that also allows me to bypass the feeling of hurt that comes with being wired for empathy.
Sometimes we need something to slow us the hell down and force us to feel, even when we don’t really want to.
Last night as I watched the reactions of the characters on This is Us as they lost the most important person in their universe, it broke me. The anger I had been absorbed with was overcome with the overwhelming realization that the hurt these made-up characters on a TV show were feeling, is the reality of what we are putting our kids through.
God it feels pathetic to admit that this is what triggered a deeper reality of emotion than the anger I felt within. But since Brene Brown keeps on saying that vulnerability is vital and I am fairly confident she is right, I’m going to keep it super real with y’all. Sometimes I try to shut out deeper empathy because it hurts.
However, the problem is, without that deeper empathy, when we are solely full of an angry thirst for justice, we are slowly draining our own souls. We will eventually fade into bitter cynicism.
Someone who I deeply admire once sent my husband and I an email with some thought provoking questions one of which was, “When was the last time you cried for the hurting?”
At first I thought, my life revolves around seeking justice for the hurting, so of course I feel sadness.
I mean I have this deep seeded belief that it’s trying to love others first - the real life red letter way of Jesus that tends to contradict the White American Christianity we see in our world today - that gives us real purpose in this flash of an existence on this planet.
But when was the last time I cried for the hurting? When was the last time I was filled with more than anger because of the hurt I saw? When was the last time I allowed myself to slow down and hurt with the hurting? Was it the last time I was on the Syrian border? I didn’t know for sure, I couldn’t think of the last time I literally cried for the hurting. And for my own heart, I realized that is a problem.
Allowing ourselves to hurt when others hurt, to cry when the world allows and enables needless suffering, to listen to “the other” and allow our heart to fucking shatter, is what love truly is. The red letter love I talk about is the ultimate bad-ass-love-seeker Jesus crying for the hurting and then doing something about it. Allowing himself to constantly hurt with the hurting. Red letter love means allowing ourselves to hurt over and over again, it is what gives us the strength to keep going when the world feels hopeless. Anger isn’t going to fuel our fight forever, we need more.
Don’t get me wrong. There is still a decent level of anger and there should be but I need more than just an anger for injustice. I need to slow down and feel the pain through empathy to the best of my ability. I need to cry like a small child in my living room on the couch as I watch a flipping TV show remind me of how real this hurt I am fighting against truly is. How true the pain is.
As much as I like to pretend that I’m so super tough and blah blah blah, the reality is that’s a bunch of crap. I need to cry for the hurting. I need to allow myself to feel. I need to embrace the pain of this world because it makes me a better person. Anger alone won’t change the world and even though it may feel easier at the time, allowing anger to mask empathy will burn us out. But a love based on empathy and an anger based on this love is what can change this world forever.
So embrace the pain, cry for the hurting, be a hot mess and love with a strength that can only be found through beautiful painful empathy.