My business partner, and best friend, and I recently spoke at a conference here in Idaho. The gathering was made up of nonprofit leaders from around the state coming together to share knowledge and information about how to be better at what they do.
Like so many conferences, this one had a theme: The Super-powered Sector. There is no denying that effective nonprofits seem to possess superpowers, but what struck me about the theme had to do with a conversation we had with one of the attendees.
After we spoke, we spent time at a booth meeting people and signing books during the breaks between each of the day’s sessions. A gentleman, named Brek, came up to us during one of the quieter times and we struck up a conversation about what we do, the content of the conference, his work, and the weather. Eventually, though, our words got redirected to a discussion of faith, pain, and the struggles of life.
We learned that we had a mutual friend with Brek named Kenny. Our new acquaintance told us all about their friendship, their shared interests, and similar life experiences. Then he said something that got my attention. “Though we look nothing alike, If Kenny and I each held up a placard with our histories on them, you wouldn’t be able to tell us apart.”
Brek paused for a moment and then continued, “In fact, if we all help up placards with our stories written out we would find we have a lot more in common than we think.”
These words brought something to the forefront of my mind that I have been chewing on for a while now. I know so many people, myself included, who carry struggles, pain or addictions, fears and failures, that we hold close. We keep them quiet because we don’t want anyone to know because no one will understand. But if we all wore placards, I would be willing to bet the things we believe isolate us could be the very things that unite us.
My wife and I meet weekly with a group of couples. We offer strength, encouragement, and support to one another. A few months back, we did an exercise where we all wrote down on small pieces of paper one or two things we struggle with most.
We placed the pieces of paper in a bowl and then wrote all the responses on a whiteboard.
The words we all stared at were weighty and sobering.
Fear of not being enough, self-doubt, lust, insecurity, fear of being alone, depression, fear of failure, and many more.
What was so powerful was that everyone was surprised and yet relieved to know they weren’t the only one dealing with something. In fact, every person was dealing with or had dealt with, all but a few of the responses. In a moment, the things we all saw as the most difficult for us suddenly became things that united us.
Standing with Brek, my mind went back to The Super-powered Sector theme of the day, and I couldn’t help but think the most significant “superpower” we can possess is having the strength to speak out what we fear, acknowledging our weaknesses. Because by doing so, we learn we aren’t alone, and that someone else has been there before.
What are you holding onto that is weighing you down, what fears, failures, or secrets hold you back because you are the only one dealing with these things? Share them with someone close. You might be surprised at how such things bring us together.
Because the things we let isolate us should be the very things that unite us.