Do you ever wonder:
If other people are like you?
What their ‘real’ lives are like?
Who are they really behind that mask or behind those closed doors?
Do others really struggle like you do?
Over the years I have learnt that people are more similar than we might think. Although our lives and challenges are, in many ways, unique.
We ALL have struggles.
Life brings all of us both joy and pain.
Even those people who might want you to think that they have it all together. The ones who seem like life always goes well for them – the beautiful couple down the road and the perfect family next door.
Yes; they struggle too.
Their challenges will be unique to them and you will often never know they exist.
But I assure you – they are there.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato
Over the years I have had the privilege to connect and build relationships with people from all different backgrounds and cultures, both here (in the UK) and abroad.
I love people. I love discovering who they really are and then helping them to reach out towards fulfilling their potential.
One of the things I have learnt is that although the world is full of diversity, which is wonderful, we are ALL actually more similar than we might think. Things are different outwardly for us all and yet inside we often face the same challenges, temptations and battles.
I recently watched an episode of a series called ‘The Tribe’ on Channel 4 about a native family living in rural Ethiopia.
It was fascinating.
Obviously their lives were completely different from ours. They lived in mud huts, kept animals, were self sufficient, had arranged marriages and yet as you watched it and listened to the translation you realised that families face a lot of the same issues.
Rebellion (yes teenagers in rural Ethiopia like to push the boundaries of tradition and etiquette just like Western kids do).
In the episode I saw, one of the teenage girls used to love going to the market in the town to look at & buy new items of clothing. On this one occasion she ran off with some of her family’s money to go and buy colourful bras (even though the traditional dress was that women usually went topless). The argument that took place upon her return was so similar to arguments in many teen homes in the West!
We are ALL more similar than you might think.
There is a song by Lecrae, featuring Kari Jobe that really spoke to me following its release a while ago. It is all about the fact that we are ALL broken, messed up and in need of grace.
“Broken pieces actin’ like we ain’t cracked,
But we all messed up and can’t no one escape that…
… Ain’t a soul on the planet
That’s better than another
And we all need grace in the face of each other” – Lecrae
I love this concept.
We are ALL messed up in some way and in need of grace (undeserved kindness, understanding and forgiveness).
Grasping this stops us believing there is a hierarchy of ‘goodness’. That some of us are just ‘good people’ and some of us simply ‘bad’.
The revelation that people are more similar to you than you think, is actually empowering because it makes us all more equal. It demands that we treat one another with grace rather than judging one another with faulty or hypocritical principles.
When we can accept that we ALL have weakness, vulnerability and struggles; our selfishness is challenged and we can actually become more compassionate.
It changes our pride into humility.
We stop rating ourselves as better or worse than others but instead recognise that we are all ‘messed up’, in some way, and in need of grace.
It levels the playing field.
As I wrote in Surviving the Storm Six months on, I have been faced with my own frailty and weaknesses this year, possibly far more than any other year.
This year has challenged my identity and chipped away at my confidence. Physical weakness can also challenge us mentally and emotionally.
You have less energy for life.
I am learning that I need to embrace this process rather than fight it.
We must allow our own struggles to build in us authenticity and a deeper compassion and grace for others.
It’s a painful process.
It’s a humbling process.
But it’s also a beautiful process if we let it run its course.
In A Year Ago Today: A Journey Through Grief (about my Mum’s death) I wrote:
“Suffering can, if we let it, unite and draw us together in a way that nothing else can. It strips us of our titles and crafted exteriors and touches the heart.”
Suffering causes different things to happen to different people: Some people can become hard and bitter, consumed by their own pain and need. Others learn to direct their pain into compassion and empathy for others.
It is these people that find new purpose within their suffering. They have other people to think about and focus on which helps to heal their own wounds.
It changes our perspective.
Self pity; destroys us. It makes us miserable and angry.
Compassion; fills us with positive passion. It moves us to see others needs and make a difference in their lives.
Feeling compassion, for others, in the midst of our own struggles, brokenness and pain, builds bridges that helps us to identify with all sorts of other people.
We are ALL messed up in some way.
We ALL have flaws.
We ALL get stuff wrong.
We ALL make mistakes.
Most of the time we will never know what has happened in someone’s life to make them like they are.
We ALL have a story;
Things that shape us.
Things that break us.
Things that heal us.
Things that strengthen us.
We are ALL more similar than we think and; “We all need grace in the face of each other.”
“It’s incredibly powerful- life changing- to be in a relationship where we can be totally vulnerable without fear, when the person knows the worst about us and still accepts us.” -Samuel Chand
Who could you show grace and compassion to today?