This week, I listened to two different podcasts that impacted me profoundly. Moments of clarity come when we are not looking. First, a little context…when I work with couples, I provide a set of tools that revolve around connection, empathy, and communication. However, using these tools requires a conscious effort, and partners can resist the effort when they don’t feel love (or loved). What should we do when we don’t feel love?
This week, I was listening to a conversation about the overlap of spirituality and TEAM CBT therapy on the Feeling Good Podcast, Episode 304. Dr. Burns often describes healing through TEAM CBT as a spiritual experience, but he rarely talks about religion (or God). This week, he described a moment when contemplating about a friend’s deep suffering while on a walk across the desert. He recalled an immense pain as if he could feel her sadness and suffering. He later learned that his friend literally experienced healing on that same day. He tearfully described this moment as experiencing God in the moment of shared sadness.
Two days later, I came across a podcast called An Interview with Mother Teresa. On the September 5th podcast of The Catholic Talk Show, they played a recording of Mother Teresa describing love. She said that acts of love are moments when you are willing to share in someone else’s pain and suffering. She explained that sharing someone’s pain requires sacrifice and often your own suffering, which makes it so profound (and difficult). She modeled this love throughout her life, in her willingness to share in the suffering of the poor and the sick, through her own sacrifice. If there ever was a human to model, I think it might be Mother Teresa!
It occurred to me that both Dr. Burns and Mother Teresa were connecting the deepest act of love with the choice (and willingness) to share in another’s suffering. This, in fact, may be the necessary ingredient in healing a relationship! The choice to share yourself is love. Every one of us has the capacity to love in this way. Loving is most difficult when the situation is most difficult.
For example, imagine that your brother steals $50,000 from you. Imagine the anger and frustration. You wouldn’t condone what he did, and you may never trust him again. Yet would you be willing to share in his pain? Could you try to understand what he was experiencing when he made the terrible choice to steal from his own family? That would be the deepest act of love that you could give.
If you’re struggling to connect with someone in your life, ask yourself if you’re willing to share their experience. Are you willing to love, even if it hurts? Love is always possible.
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