Freshman Reflections #2

You Probably Learned this in Kindergarten, Sorry if I’m a Little Behind

By: Alicia Pautienus
Coming to university, I knew I wanted to make a paradigm shift: I wanted to put people before my work (not put people first. Sorry, fellow people, but that spot is thoroughly occupied by a rather jealous God). I realized, going in, there would probably be some growing pains with this, but I assumed that ‘growing pains’ would mean my grade point average dropping a touch. A blow to my ego, sure, but nothing I can’t manage. 

Shocker: (most) everything quickly became things I can’t manage. As it turns out, people are utterly illogical, entirely helpless, and very, very bad at getting out of their own heads. Worst of all, I too am a people, so I am utterly illogical, entirely helpless, and very, very bad at getting out of my own head. 

In less pessimistic terms: a lot of problems simply aren’t manageable by human means. You can’t fix loss. You can’t convince anyone that they’re worth anything, even when they’re worth everything. You can’t protect people from bad home situations or solve the trauma inflicted by them. You can’t force someone to open up to you or trust you or love you back, even when all you want to do is provide a safe space for them to just be.   

My natural tendency, in case you didn’t pick up on it, is to try and fix things. When people offer me their problems, my go-to is solutions over comfort. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), aka, empathetic communication, is a weak spot of mine. Moreover, failing to do this can build walls in relationships as both sides are continually put off by the other.  (Just to be clear, on the behalf of all my fellow struggling empathic communicators: failing to communicate empathically does not mean our heart isn’t as big as everyone else’s. It just means that the expression of our care emerges differently. We’re not cold)

Anyway, this life lesson is a giant growing pain. On one hand, it hurts a lot, because all I want to do is help. On the other hand, not all crosses are mine to bear. They are all HIS to bear. When I’m privileged with the experience, learning to walk with people’s pains is an exercise of trust and patience in the Great Counselor. And as always with God, it pays off. I’m floored when watching the Prince of Peace shine through other people’s darkness, the Great Comforter heal seemingly endless hurts, and the Almighty Father topple others’ fears with the magnitude of His love. It’s almost like this dude’s some kind of savior. Imagine that. 

While this ongoing process is obviously helpful to the other people involved (I’m sure me not shoving down unwanted solutions down their throat 24/7 is an answered prayer for some), it’s also helpful to me. Trusting God means that I’m not stuck thinking I have to solve the problem in the first place. I don’t have to be strong for them; God already is. This allows me to risk being more openly emotional with them, which helps with both empathic exchanges and spurs on the conversations needed to bridge the communication gaps. 

Prioritizing my community is hard. There’s a lot that I can’t do. Yet, I can always lean on the one who can do it all, and encourage others to do the same. As far as the hurt goes, the God that I’m growing for and the people I’m growing with make the pain of the journey worth it.

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