“Please remind me… how did we first meet?” I asked Heather, a woman I had become friendly with via social media. 

Sitting across a cloth-covered table, with the ocean a hundred yards to my left, I expected to hear that we knew each other through social media. Her answer stopped me in my tracks and left me wondering why she had asked to have lunch. 

“We met initially on a yoga mat at the gym. Then, we had lunch. You directed me to two books, which I promptly decided that I would never read. Our conversation was too much,” she said. 

Shit, I thought, what did I say? Was it too much? Was I too much? Did I hurt her? 

Has this ever happened to you?

It’s My Fault 

Thankfully, I had been doing some work on one of my faulty beliefs—“It’s my fault.” 

Taking a deep breath, I sat back and tried to really hear what Heather was saying, without defending myself. If you have ever unintentionally caused someone pain, physical or emotional, you know how hard it is to just listen without defending.  

As Heather shared about her experience with me from more than a decade ago, I found myself remembering a story Pema Chodran, a world-renowned Buddhist nun, told years ago. Here’s the gist of that story… 

A young woman, who had been sexually assaulted by a spiritual leader, went to the media and talked about how she had tried to get help from Pema years before. Apparently, Pema, a spiritual leader within the same community, discounted the young woman’s concerns.

Defend or Believe 

Pema did not remember the exchange the woman was accusing her of, but she did believe her. Rather than defending herself, she apologized and committed to working through the pain with the woman. While I have no idea how this pain resolved itself between the two of them, I was (and will forever be) touched by Pema’s response to her.  

She never said, “I didn’t say or do any of the things you are accusing me of.” Instead, she listened and offered love. 

Much like Pema, and most people, I never want my actions, or my words, to cause another person fear or pain. And yet, I am a human being who chooses to be in relationships with other human beings; therefore, I’m bound to hurt others. We all are. 

So, then, it’s not a matter of “if” we will hurt others, but when, and how will we respond to the hurt.

Hurting Is a Part of Humanity

Recognizing that she was the one who asked me to lunch, I laid down my guard, and did my best to respond with compassion and care. Here’s what I said— 

“I hear that our conversation was too much for you back then. Thank you for letting me know, and good for you to avoid reading anything that didn’t feel right.” 

Then, I tried hard to just listen as she shared about how her story had unfolded over the past decade since we last spoke. She had been through many healing adventures, and it was a privilege to hear her bits and pieces of it. 

Don’t get me wrong… I still wanted to offer her everything I could to help her with her journey. Instead, I pointed to the truth—she has awareness, and that’s all she needs. That’s all any of us needs because the power that put the earth the exact distance from the sun so as to warm it, without burning it, has a plan for each one of us.

More Love and Grace, Please 

In a world that feels so unsteady, and downright scary at times, we all need a little more love, not more fear. When others bring you their mixed-up storylines about something you said or did, trust them. Their experiences are legitimate, and they’re looking for healing. Offer your compassion, empathy, and desire to heal together. Because, in the end, we aren’t so separate… what we do for and with others, we are doing for and within ourselves.

Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister helps companies and leaders motivate and inspire excellence. For nearly 20 years, she has facilitated communication that results in trust, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Make sure your communication is coming across the way you intend, visit https://www.MistiBurmeister.com