I stole the title for my blog today from our Crisis Line Director, Leslie. It is one of her favorite sayings.
Every day on the crisis lines I witness the power of kindness.
We live in a competitive society and most of us push ourselves pretty hard. We want to succeed – to do well in school or at work, to fulfill our responsibilities as sons or daughters or parents or friends, to live up to our potential and hopefully grab some portion of the American Dream. Along the way, we all face challenges.
Our culture celebrates rugged individualism and self-reliance, but the truth is that we need each other.
Multiple studies show that when we have someone we trust, someone with whom we feel safe to share our weakness and vulnerability, we are better able to weather the experiences of pain and loss that are an inevitable part of life’s journey. The larger our support network, the better off we will be. Research also shows that, particularly for men, this type of safe connection with a confidant is not so easy to establish and maintain. A 2006 study by McPherson, et.al. reported that, in 1985, Americans reported having an average of 3 confidants (people to whom they could tell anything); in 2004 that number had dropped to 1.
It can be very scary to say the words, “I’m hurting,” or “I think I have an alcohol problem” or “I’m feeling suicidal” to another person. Saying those words can feel like admitting personal failure. Pride and feelings of shame can seal our lips and keep us in isolation. Secrecy breeds more pain and desperation. Our crisis line is confidential and anonymous, which we hope makes it a little easier to take that leap of opening up.
We are a peer-to-peer helpline, so most of the people answering the phones are volunteers. They are here because they care. They want to give back. They’ve wrestled with difficult issues themselves and came out whole on the other side. We offer empathy, compassion, respectful listening, a pathway out of isolation – a net of safety and kindness to catch our callers when they take that risk of reaching out. We honor the dignity of an honest struggle toward health and bear witness to the pain involved.
From within that fragile and gentle human connection comes hope.