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I’m a big fan of words. Not individual words per sea, but when words are strung together in such a way as to affect us deeply. Whether the results manifests themselves in a good laugh, a good cry, a call to action, or some combination of all of the above. Words are powerful.

Two forms of word play I have particular affection for are quotes and song lyrics. I don’t know why. I’ve just always admired a good quote. A small collection of words that conveys a powerful concept. As for lyrics, I think there’s something magical about combining thoughtful words and music, especially when it seems as though the songwriter has somehow peeked into your heart and found a piece of your own story.

Yesterday, with a song that’s been playing in my head for the past several days, I came across a quote that was in opposition with said song. It left me feeling conflicted, because I tend to agree that the words in the song and the words in the quote were both true, even though they were at odds with one another. Here’s the quote:

“It’s better to keep grief inside. Grief inside works like bees or ants, building curious and perfect structures, complicating you. Grief outside means you want something from someone, and chances are good you won’t get it.”
~ Hilary Thayer Hamann (Anthropology of an American Girl)

As I spoke these words aloud though, they felt bitter in my mouth. Grief outside often does indeed mean you want something from someone, and the stiff upper lip side of me tends to agree. “Stop whining,” it says. “Don’t burden someone else with your problems.There are certain things that must remain unsaid. Bury them deep and no one gets hurt,” and on and on.

But those aren’t the words I want to believe. The words I want to believe are these:

Say (by John Mayer)

Take all of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all of your so-called problems,
Better put ‘em in quotations

Say what you need to say [x8]

Walking like a one man army
Fighting with the shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment
Knowing you’d be better off instead,
If you could only . . .

Say what you need to say [x8]

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You’d better know that in the end
Its better to say too much
Then never say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open

Say what you need to say [x24]

I’ve thought about both the quote and the song quite a bit. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the quote comes from someone who builds walls around herself. Walls built in an effort to insulate her from getting hurt again. I understand that. But I also think those walls don’t really insulate you from pain. They just keep others out, and by doing so, allow you to focus on yourself almost exclusively. (A sure recipe for misery.) They’re also pretty painful for those who are trying to get through them to reach you. And sometimes words left unsaid are every bit as painful as the ones that are. Sometimes moreso.

Are you holding back words you need to share?
“I’m proud of you.”
“I believe in you.”
“You make me smile.”
“Thank you for being there for me.”
“I know this is difficult, but I’m here for you.”
“I wish things could be different.”
“Things are going to be okay.”
“I love you.”
“Hang on.”

I think I’ll vote for reaching out and saying what needs saying. It just might be exactly what someone needs to hear today…

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20 Responses to “Conflicted”

  1. Michael October 21, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    You inspire me and others.

    That’s what needs to be said from all of us.

  2. Candy October 21, 2010 at 9:07 am #

    I believe in “guarding your heart” within reason, but closing off others is not what we were made to do. “Its better to say too much than never say what you need to say again.” So true.

  3. Tony Alicea October 21, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    I think holding grief in is pride. The thought that you don’t need anyone and you can handle things on your own.

    I want those around me to let me know they are grieving. No one should grieve alone. I sure don’t want to grieve alone.

    Sure there’s always a balance and attention seekers and selfish people will always exist. But that doesn’t mean we should all go the other way and hold it in. That’s craziness.

    Great thoughts here Kat.

  4. Duane Scott October 21, 2010 at 9:33 am #

    I want to live with my heart wide open. That said, its difficult to find a balance. I have a friend who shares every little fear, struggle, pleads for prayers, etc… and I sometimes wonder if they wouldn’t just kneel in prayer and tell God about all the grief in their life, if they wouldn’t be much further ahead than asking the rest of us to pray.

    I don’t mean to sound uncaring, I just think there is a fine line between too little heart shown and too much.

    Love john m!

    • A Simple Country Girl October 21, 2010 at 10:04 am #

      Yes, that is it…hearts wide open. I borrowed that verbiage in my comment below. And I agree, some needs are not to be public fodder, but there are times when we need the strength and love and grace and acceptance and forgiveness of others.

      Sometimes such strength is shown in the sharing/asking…


  5. Sandra Heska King October 21, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    If we keep it all in, do we deny others the opportunity to love?

    Isn’t it easier to fight shadows together?

    I want to live with heart wide open.

    Deep thoughts here, Kathy. I’ll be thinking about this all day.

    You encourage and inspire me.

  6. Annie K October 21, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    I think there is a balance between the song and the quote. I don’t believe we should hold everything in but I also don’t believe we should necessarily share everything either.

    Great thoughts Kat.

  7. A Simple Country Girl October 21, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    Although I think that first quote is overall stinking rubbish, she is brilliantly right about part of her statement, when you grieve, you want something from someone. You want many things. This is where her train jumps the track though–rather than keeping it in, the griever has a God-given right and the liberty to share her/his sorrows, pain, fear, etc.

    Are you familiar with Kirsten ( )
    and baby Ewan ( )?

    She is a contributing photographer at High Calling. Within 28 days, she gave birth, watched countless medical procedures performed on her infant son, and buried him to be with his Father God, our God. This woman is living with her heart wide open, and in doing so, she is spilling so much of God on us that while she is grieving, she is blessing and loving and living and yes, even needing. And because of that, she is strong and courageous and bold and admittedly held together by God’s firm grasp.

    She had this to say yesterday (do pray for Kirsten and her husband, please):

    And poor C. quotes me, “Do not mourn like those that have no hope.” It astonishes me, the way we are invited to apply to ourselves words so obviously addressed to our betters. What St. Paul says can comfort only those who love God better than the dead, and the dead better than themselves. If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.

    ~ C. S. Lewis

  8. @kelybreez October 21, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    I’m with ya. Great thoughts, kat.

    Can’t keep grief in, or we shrivel and die.

    Can’t keep it ALL on the outside, or we’re probably just parading for attention…

    For me, it comes down to where my heart is… If I want to be open, vulnerable, living in the light, not pretending I’m fine, wanting to allow the community God has given me to help with my healing (which is very biblical), then some of the time it’s definitely got to be on the outside. But maybe only with a few, people who know me, so that I’m not just running around sliming everyone with my gunk.

    And then… Some of it’s gotta be my own processing, too. I can’t ONLY depend on others to heal me, when I have the Spirit of God inside me to help with that healing.

    One thing I know. I’d NEVER make it if I kept all of it inside.

  9. A Simple Country Girl October 21, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Okay, to clarify, when I said “she” I meant that Hilary lady, not Kathy.

    And instead of saying “THIS is where her train jumps the track…” I should have said “THEN her train jumps the track…”

    Perhaps I say too much. Anyway, I want to make those things right. If I speak out before re-reading my words multiple times, my bad. Entirely.


    • katdish October 21, 2010 at 10:17 am #

      Ah, heck. I knew where you were coming from Darlene. And thanks for sharing Kirsten’s story. Great thoughts.

  10. *~Michelle~* October 21, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    Like Annie….I believe there is a healthy balance between the two. But I would lean towards sharing with others as I often wear my heart on my sleeve. I also would rather said the words to someone rather than have regrets of not doing so. It might be just what they needed.

  11. jasonS October 21, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    If we all held all grief inside then we would be unable to carry out the command to ‘weep with those who weep.’ We do guard our heart, but it’s not from others so much as the lies and schemes of the enemy who seeks our destruction. I also like the advice in the song to say what you NEED to say. We need to say everything all the time, but we can receive comfort from others and God. We can receive healing and grace. That’s how it’s supposed to be…

    Thanks Kat.

  12. Annie McMahon October 21, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    I think there’s a way to express grief without becoming a pain in the neck for people around us. As many people expressed in the comments, it’s a matter of finding a balance. There’s a big difference between reaching out for help and just plain whining.

    I found a quote on Twitter today (via Rock Christopher) that kind of relates to your post:

    “Have you ever wondered which hurts the most: saying something and wishing you had not, or saying nothing and wishing you had?”

  13. Hazel Moon October 21, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    I agree with Annie, that often we just want to dump our problems on our friends as a form of release for ourselves. However grief, anger, emotional hurts held in can be damaging to the spirit, soul and body. There are times it is necessary to speak out and speak up! Other times, I find taking it to my friend Jesus, who will always listen, I can share anything with him, and not be afraid of rebuke, or criticism.

  14. Maureen October 21, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    The experience of grief is deeply intimate and personal, and different for each person. I don’t believe it can be generalized in statements such as are implied in that quote. I don’t believe grief is a process; it’s not a matter of going through stages (Kubler-Ross never intended that her writing about death be applied to the experience of grief). And the loss grief represents can last a lifetime.

    I think an expression of grief “on the outside” is a celebration of the love of the person who has died. It is surely a time when feelings on the inside are in complete synch with the expression external.

  15. Cassandra Frear October 21, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

    This is an interesting topic and debate.

    From my perspective, it all depends.

    Scripture encourages us to weep with those who weep and to pray for one another. That assumes we’re sharing our pain.

    That said, we can exercise restraint at times when it’s wise. Right now, I have a few issues I’ve realized I should not share with my friends, because the situation is unresolved and talking about it makes it all seem worse than it really is. I know my friends love me and that God loves me, and I’ve decided that it’s enough to focus on that right now.

  16. Kurt Chambers October 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    This is an awesome post :) I totally agree with you, sharing is always better every time. Not always that easy in real life though.

  17. Kathy October 22, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

    You are an awesome woman. I loved this post.


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