Courage To Be Vulnerable

I hate confrontation, in basically any form. I hate it. Confrontation always meant I was in trouble when I was a kid. Trouble for not paying attention. Trouble for doing the wrong thing. I recently found out my mom kept a lot of my report cards from elementary school and junior high school.  Nearly all of them said I was a great kid, and could do really well if I would just focus, and pay attention. Quit wasting the class’s time. I still spend way too much time in my head, daydreaming, not paying attention, not living in the now. Wasting time, in my mind, wasting my mind’s time. I have a Post-It note right in front of me as I write that says, “Right here, right now.” I don’t know if it helps. Probably doesn’t hurt…

Sorry, I got distracted. I was talking about confrontation. Virtually any kind of confrontation breeds anxiety in me. I find myself planning and rehearsing the things I’ll never say. You know, to be prepared! Things I rarely remember to say in the moment. Because unless it’s forced on me, I usually put off confrontation until it’s turned into something worse. Something much bigger than it actually is, in reality. My avoidance of confrontation makes the situation that requires confrontation worse. If I am aware enough to address issues as they come up, things don’t build disproportionately. A wise man once said, “Bad news doesn’t age well.”

If I possess the ability to know how I feel in the now, to pay attention, and be truthful and trust what I am feeling, I won’t have the time to become afraid about the confrontation. I won’t have time to plan all the things I’ll never say. I won’t have time to unintentionally figure out how my words can make it worse.

I need to be true to myself in order to be true to you, in order to avoid being snarky, or sarcastic, or cynical. Sarcasm is a tough one for me to let go of. I love sarcasm. Frankly, sarcasm is my second favorite “asm.” But my sarcastic comments are rarely kind, or helpful. In truth, they amount to thinly veiled character assassinations which only serve to make me look better by stinging you with scorn.

To be honest about what I am feeling scares me. Writing this scares me. I am a man and I was taught (directly and indirectly) that men only feel happy or angry (in my family, angry was mostly off the table too.) Men are allowed to laugh or smash things. Anything else is emasculating. I did not have healthy males modeling sadness or fear, sympathy or empathy. It wasn’t my Dad’s fault either. He was raised that way too, most guys were. A friend of mine used to call it the “John Wayne syndrome.” What’s ironic is that I have to be brave to show fear. It takes strength to be aware when I’m weak. It takes courage to be vulnerable.

If there is a situation I can change, and it needs to be addressed, I need to address it with compassion. The other person may be hurting too, they’re most likely hurting too. Life is hard, the struggle is real. Everyone is going through things. I have come up with a mantra for these times.

Please give me the courage to be vulnerable and the strength to be kind. 

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