Thursday, April 28, 2005


by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

I tossed my friend a wreath of roses, wet
With early dew, the garland of the morn.
He lifted it--and on his brow he set
A crackling crown of thorn.

Against my foe I hurled a murderous dart.
He caught it in his hand--I heard him laugh--
I saw the thing that should have pierced his heart
Turn to a golden staff.

* * *

This is so true. The people we most love and want to help, we so often end up hurting. Of course, that makes sense: people can only be hurt by the people they love. We care about those we love, and so if they hurt themselves, we take a share of the pain of seeing them suffer.

This is why I have concluded that the more someone is willing to hear me complain, the less I should do it: because if they care about my problems, they will probably end up caring too much, and they'll worry about me. Even if they don't consciously worry, I'll end up getting them down.

Can anyone tell me a way I can suffer without making everyone who loves me suffer too?


Judit said...

Nope, not possible. To love someone is to suffer with them. When you hurt, your friends hurt, too. That's one of my lessons learned this semester. And I am MORE than happy to suffer with you!

Sheila said...

But when I love people, I don't want them to suffer! And after a while, you start to realize that sooner or later you're going to have to go through some things on your own.

Charlemagne said...

I have two quotations in response to this;

"When we honestly ask ourselve which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares." Rev. Henri J. Nouwen

"If a friend of mine gave a feast, and did not invite me, I should not mind a bit. But, if a friend of mine had a sorrow and refused to allow me to share it, I should feel it most bitterly. If he shut the doors of his house of mourning against me, I would move back again and again and beg to be admitted, so that I might share in what I was entitled to shar. If he thought me unworthy, unfit to weep with him, I should feel it as the most poignant humiliation, as the most terrible mode by which disgrace could be inflicted upon me..." Oscar Wilde

A bit extreme, but I think you see what I'm trying to say. If you're unable to become a burden to your friends, you're really not being a true friend. What is a family? Nothing more than a group of kids being a burden on their parents, who had, years ago, made vows to be burdens on one another. If you can't feel sorrow with or be burdensome to a friend, then you're not being a friend.

Sheila said...

I suppose I do feel that way about other people's troubles... I just can't feel as easy about imposing my problems on other people as about taking other people's problems upon myself.

I guess you're saying what Rosencrantz said to Hamlet: "You do, surely, bar the door upon your own liberty, if you deny your griefs to a friend."

However, I don't think I err in the direction of keeping my problems to myself. In fact, whenever I have a problem I'm bound to go to one of my friends and spill my guts about it. But I think doing this too much isn't healthy. The definition of love is not "suffering with," that's compassion. Love is desiring the good of the other.

And sometimes I wonder if I am too selfish even to know what true love and true friendship are like.

Anonymous said...

I just had the privilege of someone "confessing" some awful thoughts and feelings to me. The feeling of closeness that suddenly emerged reminded me that all my closest relationships began with one of us revealing some great sorrow or weakness. I think vulnerability is a prerequisite to friendship. Even God became accessible to us when He made himself weak as a baby, and suffered as a Man.

Coriel said...

Well, I suppose you can suffer like the saints did: just not tell anyone and act happy the whole time. But I wish you luck with that; I've never been able to pull it off.

On a lighter note (I guess), I love that choice of poem. ^_^

Sheila said...

You're both right (Coriel and everyone else).

On the one hand, friends do want to be told when we're in trouble, and they want to help us through it.

On the other hand, it can be a great sacrifice and a saintly deed (for those of us to whom it is a sacrifice) to offer your sufferings to God and give your happy face to everyone else.