When I graduated high school, my grandma wrote a note on my graduation card. She said we wish you great success and hope you will become famous. The second part of the sentence was a puzzle to me. What kind of life did Grandma C. envision for me, a smart but shy kid? Why did she think I could or would ever be famous and why did she want that for me? I never asked so I will never know. If grandma were here today, I would tell her that my own dream is to be even half the kind, gentle woman of faith that she was. I don’t need fame, I don’t need a fortune. I just want to love and accept people for who they are just like she did.
My grandpa had been feeling sick the May I graduated and soon found out he had pancreatic cancer. He died just a couple of months later. Grandma saw me graduate from college and start my career in accounting. She was proud of me even though I chose a behind-the-scenes career that fit my introverted personality. I know that she would be proud of all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, regardless of how big their circle of fame.
A lot has changed since my grandparents’ day. In my second job out of college, I was introduced to the internet for the first time. That would have been in the mid 90’s, somewhere near the end of my grandma’s life. Since then, the internet has revolutionized the way we work, the way we socialize, the way we communicate and for many people, the way to pursue fame and followers.
About five years ago, the internet became a way for me to try out my long-suppressed desire to write. Even though I don’t talk a lot, my mind is full of thoughts that I long to express. I have learned a lot about myself along this blogging journey. I learned why it is so much easier for an introvert to communicate in writing. I learned that I have a strong social conscience. I learned that I have a deep, unshakeable faith. I learned that it is sometimes easier to share myself with people I don’t know. And I found an outlet for sharing my love of nature.
I learned that no matter how many thousands of words I’ve arranged on the screen, no matter how many people have told me they like my writing, no matter how much I learn about myself, I can’t seem to shake my self-doubts. I always hold myself back, afraid to share myself fully and authentically because I expect to be criticized and rejected. Henri Nouwen understood this. He wrote that perhaps “the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection.”
Time and time again, after publishing my thoughts on the great blogosphere, as I think about sharing my latest post with friends and family, I instead listen to that dark voice in my head that says I’m not good enough. Somebody won’t like it. I deserve to be ignored.
I learned a long time ago that the easiest way to avoid being rejected by other people is to reject myself first. I am my greatest spiritual enemy. Henri said, “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the Beloved.”
Vulnerability comes with a great deal of risk. I will be rejected and cast aside by many people; I take that as a given. But if sharing a bit of myself with other people can make a positive difference to even one person, just as my grandma did for me, it is worth it. I am flawed. I am weak. But I am also beloved by One far stronger than me. His compassion moves me to go where it hurts, to share my brokenness, my fear, my confusion and my anguish with others.
So at the start of a new year, I continue on my spiritual journey, seeking truth in my innermost being, going where Compassion asks me to go, immersing myself in this imperfect condition of being human. On my new Innermost Being blog, I write using my grandma’s maiden name to honor the quiet, gentle woman of faith that I aspire to be. Grandma has been gone for many years, but her compassion lives forever in my heart. I hope that she would be proud me even though I’m not famous and not nearly as nice as she was.
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human. – Henri Nouwen