how many times have you avoided asking a question because you know the answer is going to make you uncomfortable?
and how many times have you been asked, "are you okay?" only to lie through your teeth and say yes when you're clearly not?
when we know someone is struggling, we often avoid asking them what's going on because we "don't want to have that conversation." i know i'm guilty of this, probably more often than i would like to admit. and i find this particularly true with relation to someone whose family member is sick or dying - we avoid asking because we know the person isn't going to be okay. and when they confirm what we thought, we feel uncomfortable. it's as though we expect people to say they're okay when they're not. it's as though we expect others to filter their feelings to preserve our comfort. honesty becomes uncomfortable and confronting, so most people opt for comfort and disillusion.
but as uncomfortable as these conversations might make us, they're the conversations we need to have more of. they're the conversations that make people feel less alone and less like a burden. they're the conversations that can lift the weight of the problems and pain people are holding onto. what we struggle with is not always the situation we're experiencing, but the isolation of not feeling like we can talk to anyone about it.
talking can be liberating. a problem shared is a problem halved. and i don't mean that in the sense of you becoming responsible for that person's experience or struggle, but it can make that person feel like they have people who care. people who listen. people who are consciously choosing to experience a little discomfort to benefit the other person.
so the next time you find yourself sensing that someone isn't okay, instead of avoiding the situation and their feelings, what if you chose to lean in to the discomfort? to lean in to asking the uncomfortable question? being there for someone doesn't mean you need all of the answers, it just means you need to show up. take an interest. and be a human.