Most walking a conscious path recognize triggers, indicating hidden wounds and unresolved issues. The mere mention of financial hardship or poverty serves as a trigger for many, in a multitude of ways.
Do you find that you're uncomfortable when confronted with a story of personal financial struggle? Has your discomfort resulted in a pattern of looking away?
Stories of personal challenge such as illness, for example, are commonly seen and accepted. People are more hesitant to talk about money woes, largely due to societal stigma -- "you made poor choices," "you are lazy," "you're a freeloader" -- resulting in shame. This shame is the reason millions of people suffer in silence, their daily struggle remaining invisible to others. This is especially true in the United States where the rugged individualist image is revered.
When we see a story concerning someone's illness, we know we're not expected to heal them. Yet when stories of financial hardship are divulged, many feel obligated to help in some way, or assume that is what is being asked of them. Quite often, however, people simply want to be heard.
The uncomfortable reaction when these stories are shared is understandable. For sensitive, caring souls, it is painful to witness others' suffering, especially when there is no obvious solution to "fix it." Additionally, given the overwhelming number of people suffering, financially and otherwise, compassion fatigue is a growing phenomenon. There are many valid reasons why people choose to turn away; this isn't about judgment, good or bad, right or wrong.
Some say they have made a conscious, loving choice to turn away because the suffering of others is too painful and they must exercise self-compassion; they don't want to contribute energetically to a lower vibration and instead choose to "rise above"; or they feel we each create our own reality and thus others' suffering must be a necessary part of their journey.
Still others see themselves in the stories of anguish, and turn away in a desperate attempt to quell their own fear and shame.
For those who resonate with any of these thoughts, please ask yourself if you are at peace with your choice to turn away. If the answer is yes, without hesitation, your inner strength and integrity are to be sincerely applauded. If, however, you experience some measure of discomfort, perhaps it is a gentle nudge to examine your choice to turn away.
It is possible to open our hearts and acknowledge others and their stories, including painful details of financial hardship, while simultaneously accepting that we can't, nor are we compelled to, fix anything. The simple act of acknowledging their courage in sharing can be extraordinarily healing for all concerned.
"I hear you. I am so sorry you're going through this." Many times that is all people need. They've now been heard. They're not invisible. Their struggle may continue, but now they know they're not alone.
You don't have to turn away to protect your own heart. You can stay in a space of love (for yourself and others) while you confront your own doubts and fears, find the courage to open your heart and acknowledge those who cross your path. You needn't do any more than that to be of loving service.
This simple human-to-human connection can serve to heal a portion of the world's broken, closed heart, providing hope for us all, one connection, one acknowledgement at a time.
A catalyst for Practical Compassion, Dena is a lifelong social entrepreneur, community activist, consulting editor and founder of Wishadoo!, a social enterprise offering tools and resources to support the creation of a more compassionate, cooperative world.