I am 43 years old (44 in just a few days), and while I haven’t lived as long as most, my life has collided with the lives of many others. Young and old, conservative and liberal, democrat and republican, and the list goes on. And I have found that all the stories I am blessed to encounter have something in common. Every life is filled with pain—every heart will be broken.
For some reason, I have had several conversations in the past week about this. The force that causes the breaking varies—failed marriages, abuse, addiction, suicide, shattered friendships, death of a loved one—but the result is always the same—a broken heart.
Today, I had a great conversation with a new friend about what broken hearts have to give. The short answer is perspective. The long answer is not so simple. While the conversation with my new friend didn’t include these exact words, this is where my mind went. In order to give something, you have to acknowledge what you have. This means that for the broken heart to give, pain has to be acknowledged and embraced.
Let me say it again—for the broken heart to give, pain has to be acknowledged and embraced.
We will come back to this in a minute.
Earlier I mentioned that all lives have something in common—pain. That’s not all. Every man, woman, and child also has something else they share—the desire to know and be known. A beautiful reciprocity of understanding, this is the foundation of any successful relationship, a longing that is at the heart of every human being. And the need this longing creates can only be met through our acknowledgment and embracing of our pain. Because to be known, to be understood, is to be experienced.
All of who we are is a gift we get to share with others, especially our pain, but we have to choose to do so. The broken heart is one of the greatest teachers the world has ever known. A broken heart has knowledge, understanding, and wisdom found only in experience the breaking. A broken heart that has lived through pain and is still beating on the other side of grief can be someone else’s guide, the giver of sage advice, especially when that someone is floundering amidst a similar pain.
Our brokenness is what gives us the perspective necessary to walk with someone through the loss of a child, the death of a spouse, divorce, or addiction. But we have to have the resolve to pick up the pieces, put them back together, and find strength in the broken places. Chances are, someone else’s broken heart depends on it. When we embrace our brokenness and learn from the experience, we have so much to give.
Through a willingness to know and be known, the broken heart is what helps other hearts mend.