Last week, I talked about the baggage we all carry.
I was specifically referencing the baggage that women in the workplace have accrued over time. However, the reality is that we all have some baggage. We’re lugging it around. We want to do a good job making sure it doesn’t slow us down. We want to work to keep it out of other people’s way. Sometimes we are terrified if they see it, it will be the end for us.
I see several things happening with our luggage.
1. We hide it. We pretend it’s not there and that it has had no impact on our formation. This keeps us from our own healing and keeps other people from being a part of that healing support system.
2. We boast about it. We point to our luggage and proclaim that we have secured the American Dream. We yell at other people who are struggling with their luggage and we remind them that they are weak, because we are living proof that strong people can make it. We diminish other people’s desire to make the world a better place so more people have less baggage.
I think the saying goes, “If you believe other people should endure the hardships you have because you turned out fine, then you, in fact, are not fine.”
3. We throw it around. In the midst of the greatest suffering, when people have tried to find healing to lighten the load of their baggage, they sometimes get to a desperate place where, as a last resort, they use their baggage to harm others. Thank God for good therapists. This is a tough place to exist.
4. We talk about our baggage. Gently and with people who will lovingly listen and acknowledge that our baggage is real, some days it is heavy, and ideally we would love to heal the part of ourselves that keeps us lugging that around.
I am a number four kind of gal myself. I was raised in a very loving home, and I feel comfortable knowing that the world is a hard place and I am not to blame for my luggage. I also do desire a world where we can talk about our luggage so we can prevent other people from being burdened with the same load and so we can heal in our deeply divided world.
The interesting thing is, I am the outlier. As are most of the other people who prefer to move toward option number 4. I most frequently encounter those in the 1-3 category. I think social media is teeming with people in the 1-3 category.
So, here is what I want us to know about how to handle our luggage. If it’s your luggage, be a four. If you find yourself in the presence of someone who wants to talk about their luggage, whether it’s a tough circumstance they faced as a kid, or a toxic manager as an adult, no matter the reason, don’t panic. They don’t need you to carry it for them. They don’t need you fix it. Please, don’t try to fix it. These people do, however, just simply need to tell the story of their baggage. It gives them a chance to set it down for a moment.
Just listen. Notice their luggage. Acknowledge that it’s there. Remind them they are doing a good job carrying it. Then go about your day.
I once read that when we tell our stories, it alchemizes our pain. Who knows, maybe this person sharing their pain will be a blessing to you. Certainly, it will be a blessing to them.