I am a question asker. I am curious. I can come off as nosy, but I just love to learn about people’s lives. I love a good story. I love learning what makes people tick, what makes them feel alive. I love to hear about where people came from and where they are going.
More often than not, initially, people don’t know what to do with my questions. As a culture, we don’t ask questions. The depth of our questioning on an average day is “How are you?” as we continue to pass by. People struggle to answer the first few questions I ask. I can almost see it in their face as they wonder “Why is she asking so many questions?” A few questions in, people realize I don’t have ulterior motives – I just care. Their countenance begins to change. They exhale. They answer the questions more freely and with a lot more detail. I start to see beyond their words.
There are exceptions. Like I said, people aren’t used to being asked questions. Some people when asked questions feel guarded and defensive. They may not verbally express those emotions, but you can see it in their body. Some people get uneasy and withdraw into themselves. Others may not respond with any emotional at all, they instead respond with short, surface answers. They respond almost as if they have never been asked a question before.
I am not wired to answer questions with short, surface answers, but I get it. I get why someone would be guarded in their response. It is vulnerable to honestly share your story.
I am always looking for deeper meaning in words, so I looked up the word vulnerable. 1. “Capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt.” 2. “Open to moral attack, criticism, temptation.” When I am honestly telling my story, I feel all those things: susceptible to being wounded or hurt and more than anything, open to criticism. I ask myself “Will people understand what I’ve gone through? Will they take it seriously?” “Will they understand my pain?”
I have always had an interesting relationship with my story. For the last 18 years I have gone through a variety of different phases. I have gone through seasons where I will share my story to anyone that breathes. There have been times where I, subtly, interject my story. I have felt like if people actually knew how much I had been through, then they would like me more. Respect me more. Then there have been seasons where I have been very hesitant to share my story. Because most of my greatest hardships occurred many years ago, some people’s reactions sting. People have been indifferent, unimpressed, uninterested. The casual responses can cause me to become guarded, withdraw into myself and answer questions with little emotion and shallow responses.
I hate to admit it, but I have responded to other people’s stories with similar emotion. Even after asking a question myself, I have found myself responding with indifference, being uninterested and unimpressed. I have been quick to judge people’s experiences and responses.
I was sharing with someone about the resistance I have experienced as I ask questions and my own personal struggles with people’s responses. Her response to me was revolutionary.
She said to me, “Lisa, it’s not really about a person’s experience, it’s how they internalize it.”
Let me explain. Being a mom, most of my friends are moms. Unfortunately I have known a lot of people that have had miscarriages. When some of my friends have experienced miscarriages they have been devastated to the core. Some of my friends moved on pretty quickly.
Was one of them wrong?
No. Their experiences may have been similar, but they internalized their experience very differently.
I found a lot of freedom in that truth. One of the burdens I have carried over the years is wondering how other people would have with dealt with the situations I have dealt with. Have I done it wrong? Could I have done it better? When a person’s response doesn’t match the intensity of my emotions I wonder “Was it really not that big of a deal?” I would judge others’ responses to their circumstances with a similar lens. “Are you overreacting? Was it really that big of a deal?”
I realized that it’s not about how dramatic my story is or un-important some else’s story may seem. It’s not about people’s reactions or understanding of my circumstances. It’s about how the experiences touched our soul and the marks they left behind. And that is the vulnerable place. That is the place where our soul is exposed, where we are wide open for criticism. That is where we are susceptible to being wounded or hurt. That is the place beyond the words. But until we allow people to go to that place with us, healing will not begin.
So as I begin to tell my story, I will be vulnerable. I will expose my soul and the marks life has left. I have not done it well most of the time. I will tell you about my mistakes. I will open myself up to criticism and potential wounds. But I’ll do it because I’ve learned along the way there is no other way to do it, because without exposing my soul healing will never begin.
So let’s be healers. It usually just starts with a simple question. A question, a pause, a listen. Then do it again. Ask another question, pause, listen. Then one day, the answer will be different. They speak beyond the situation, to the mark the experience left on their soul. And when you are invited there, thank them, sit there, and maybe ask a question. But mostly pause, listen and let the healing begin.
Let’s be healers,