Archives for April 28, 2016

Better Together: On Self-Reliance and Asking for Help

Pansies

“When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset.” Exodus 17:12

I’m a sucker for online personality quizzes. I took one recently with less than flattering results. According to the test, I’m anti-social, which is a code word extroverts like to use for the rest of us. However, I scored high on the self-reliance portion of the quiz, and after patting myself on the back, I realized that this quality sounds great on paper, but is a double-edged sword when it comes to belonging and building community.

I’m not one to crowd source, ask for help, or solicit a bunch of people for their opinions. I ask God and I ask my husband. Later, I might tell my friends and family about it. Self-reliance has the faint whiff of toddlerhood clinging to it. As my daughter used to say when she was three, “No, mommy. I do it!” My life has been a series of “I do it” moments stacked one on top of the other, building a wall between me and the loving people who surround me in community.

In general, I’m not a fan of most ideas that don’t originate with me. Does this sound horrible? It is. My husband brought home a flat of yellow and purple pansies to plant in the garden, greeting our guests on Easter, and I was annoyed with him because I didn’t think of it myself. I would have chosen lavender and white. How. Dare. He.

He ignored my protests and with great generosity of spirit asked me where to place them in the mulched beds. When he finished planting, our garden looked as if Spring slept there overnight and she woke up fresh-faced the next morning. I swallowed the bitter pill of remorse that weekend, but my husband offered me kindness. He covered up my reaction with a shower of petals.

Recently, a project I’ve been dreaming up and laboring over and crafting for a year, was soundly rejected in its current form. I was crushed. Confused. Disappointed. But, uncharacteristically, rather than curl in on myself, and hide behind the wall my self-reliance built, I reached out to a fellow writing friend. Then another.  I shared my frustration with my mother, my mother-in-law, and an entire group of writing pals online. Then I went on a walk with one of my best girlfriends. I wore sunglasses to conceal my red eyes, but I couldn’t conceal my heart from her. And I am better for it.

When I reached out to the people in my life, they reached back and extended a hand of friendship to me. They commiserated. They laughed. They got angry. They sent emails and vox messages and took notes and wrote blog posts inspired by my experience. More than that, they prayed for me. Their wit and wisdom literally changed the course of my project and my response to it. My community of friends and fellow misfits and prayer warriors and artists held up my hands like Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses in the desert.

Self-reliance is a fantastic quality, but it can isolate us from one another. It denies our family and friends the opportunity to speak into our lives, sharing their hard-won wisdom bought by experience. It holds them at arms length rather than allowing them to hold us up. Self-reliance can keep us from the depth and richness of a sisterhood built on sharing our ideas, our joy, and our pain.

It was a revelation to discover how many Aarons and Hurs I have in my life. The garden of my life is rich with sisters–a vibrant bed full of petaled pansies. I am surrounded by color and life and beauty, and for too long, I have denied myself the pleasure of reveling in it.

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Do you have a community of women who support and rally around you? If so, thank them today and return the favor. If not, how can you begin building belonging among the women in your life?