In prison last week, I shared about an important yet difficult relationship in my life. I spoke about the clutch in my heart and my belly. How I need to set boundaries and be honest, but I don’t want to cause harm. Mindful speech is truthful, helpful, and kind. I’m getting regular practice in being truthful (for my own well-being) yet holding back words that a person can’t hear right now. Relationships are powerful mindfulness practice. They’re messy and sometimes fraught. When is the right time to speak an important truth? There’s no easy answer to that question. I’m trying to be both discerning and compassionate.
Yesterday, I was back in prison for five pastoral visits. One of the inmates commented about my sharing the previous week. He said it was powerful to hear me speak about something difficult in my life. For him—and other prisoners—it’s easy to think that problems only exist within prison walls and people on “the outside” experience happiness. Listening to me (the joyful mindfulness teacher) speak about a heart-wrenching relationship, he was reminded that we’re all human.
On my drive home, I thought about our conversation. It’s not just prisoners who have comparing mind, it’s all of us. We often look at someone’s externals and compare them to our internals. Yet this comparison is not fair nor is it helpful. Social media exacerbates the issue. We view happy, smiling moments, whereas tears and complexity, though present, aren’t posted.
Here’s the reality: We’re all imperfect, flawed, and heartbroken; we’re also beautiful, real, and hopeful. We’re both okay and not okay. Nobody escapes the difficult parts of life. And that’s a good thing: the struggles make us more wise, loving, and strong. We must walk through the regular storms in our lives. We need to live and breathe with hardship, so we can grow, change, and see the world anew.
The happy, smiling moments on social media are not fake, but it’s important to realize they’re only one slice of life. If we’re honest and vulnerable about our soft, tender places, we’re also open about our loving, joyous places. Our hearts open in both directions.
If you find yourself looking around—at parties, work, or social media—and feeling alone, like you’re the only one who experiences difficulty, please know we’re in this together. Comparing mind is dangerous. Wholehearted community is healing. Nobody has “all their shit together.” We’re all broken and whole; messy and beautiful; complicated and amazing. This is what it means to be human.