People do not need reassurance; they need honesty

“People do not need reassurance; they need honesty.”

This is a quote from the New Amsterdam episode I am watching tonight. The context is the hospital needs money. The Covid shutdown had cut out the main revenue source for the hospital for too long and now they need to make a plea for people to come back—even though they cannot guarantee everyone’s safety in doing so. At first the PR people were wanting them to give a message of assurance that just went against the doctor’s conscious, because they cannot give an assurance. The Medical Director could not do it at all. Finally, another doctor came in and tried, but even she got tripped up trying to give an assurance that wasn’t theirs to give. Here is a summary what she said instead:

I am terrified most of the time because we’ve been living in a dystopian nightmare. We lost families and children. People I know want to stop feeling scared and they want to stay alive, and I cannot reassure them of that. No one can because the world is not safe. We can’t tell people to not be afraid when everyone should be afraid. We can tell people the truth. We may never get rid of this virus, so we have to find a way to live with it. If we stay barricaded forever, we may lose things we will never be able to get back.

This series is guiding me through this next season of my life. It is helping me articulate what has been on my mind already, and it is giving me new perspectives helping me see the world differently.

The first trauma my family experienced was different than the second one. The first one was losing a lot of people over an issue that needed truth spoken, not reassurance. The system was on our side. I still love Mutiny so much. I would not be who I am without it. We saw what growing a soccer community that truly was serving the community could feel like. It was a whole lot of fun. I also experienced what happens when a travesty happens and the truth is just too much to handle. We lost almost all the teams we created together. The sad thing is, I knew what was true b/c I had observed the behavior and was already forming my own suspicion about it. It is an awful moment in time, but we made it through. And we still have amazing friends we formed during those amazing years. That is just one moment in time, but it is a significant moment. Changed us, and me, forever.

Trump was also on the rise during this time. These two things together broke me wide open. I was going to start telling the truth. I could see the world was not safe, and I was annoyed at all the messages trying to make me feel better b/c I was experiencing the world as not okay. I need to hear some honesty about this.

And I was not wrong.

I lost a lot telling the truth, but I gained more. If I could do it again with the wisdom I have now, I would have done it differently. I did not have the resources to do it differently, though. I was doing the best I could listening and sharing what I was learning in real time. I am proud of me, even though I know it was full of problems with execution (the tenderness part).

I was upset so many others would not do it at all, and they were paid to do it. But we can’t do this to ourselves. The ones not doing it were worried about their livelihoods and dealing with their own grief about what was happening in their churches. I had no idea how hard that was at the time. The things these leaders were dealing with were no small things—and, inadvertently, their silence opened me up to speak out loud—not behind the scenes. I became a person who could be seen and known. I spoke from where I was at the time, and that is all I could do. I would not have been able to grow if I did not start there. Jake told me in soccer development you cannot skip any developmental stages to get to where you want to be. The same is true in theological development. So, I will not beat myself up, or you, for things we cannot possibly know at our stage of development. It sent me to seminary anyway. Three of the best years of my life—even though I had a lot of unresolved trauma work to do. That was tough! In addition to learning how to write, think theologically, and believe in myself (no small thing!). I will write more about that in another post, because that is its own post. I also was in seminary during Covid. So dealing with that too!!!

I was ending seminary with some grounding that maybe I can do this and realizing I am worthy of love…and then BOOM. Right at the end of seminary—during my finals and preparation for graduation—the next trauma hit, and this one was way worse.

You know how I said earlier the reassurances I was receiving during an impossible time were frustrating me because I was experiencing a world that was not okay? Well, here the realization that I was not wrong. Now the problem is the system.

I am not going to go through that again, but I want to share this part because one thing people are discovering from Covid is how dangerous it is to be lonely. Our systems got overburdened and were abandoned by our government when they needed it. We often think of loneliness only as an individual issue, but it is also a system issue. I hope you are hearing my compassion now as I write this. We suffered at the hands of a lonely and abandoned system. It needs a lot more support and resources. The people are suffering trying to keep up with the burdens. As I am listening to the hospital talk about its own grief due to the abandonment of public leaders when they had to work in the worst of Covid, it made me think of the abandonment public schools must have felt too.

Say what you want about me, friends. I know there are many things I would have done differently if I knew then what I know now—and I am even talking as recent as a few weeks ago. But I survived the abandonments I feared the most. I never abandoned myself or my family, and we got stronger. I do not have to fear abandonment when I know I will not abandon me.

Here is what I needed to hear from this doctor tonight.

The world is not safe. If you stay barricaded forever, you will lose things you may never be able to get back.

I survived what I feared the most, and it came at me in a way I could have never seen coming. Hiding forever is not going to protect me; I will lose what I have gained if I let my fear of it happening again keep me from trying again anyway.

There are no guarantees. But I know I will truly live trying again. I do not have to lose that. The best love I have learned post-seminary: I have learned to love myself. And because of that, I love everyone around me—even toxic systems—so much better now. I can see the pain.

I can help, if you will let me. I am a survivor. And the trauma receives no credit for the compassion that has grown in me. That compassion has always lived in me. This compassion came because I grew compassion for me too.

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