“Please be truthful, but also please be benevolent, please.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated
My favorite book is Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s about a lot of things, but one major theme is sadness. While I’m one hundred percent against the romanticisation of depression, I do think that there is value in understanding one another, and in the book sadness is explained in a really great way.
Anyway, I am currently rereading it, and having dealt a bit with depression over the last few months, I am appreciating bits of it in a new light. There’s this one part where Foer writes, “The only thing worse than being sad is for others to know you are sad.” Initially, I relate to this remark on the most personal of levels, and I know I’m not the only one. I think that especially in the quick paced, hard working, over scheduled world we live in, emotion can be seen as a sign of weakness. For many, to be sad is to be pitied, and to be pitied is to be ashamed. Therefore, at all costs, we avoid cluing those around us in to the fact that we have (gasp!) feelings. We answer, “How are you?” with “fine, and you?” and expect the very same answer in return. Also, we sometimes don’t want to burden others with our own problems (“I’m not as bad of as…..” the curse of comparison, am I right?).
This is an issue that thousands of people have touched on, so I know my voice is just one in a sea of many, but it’s important to know that while the feeling that Foer describes is relatable, there is no truth behind it. A more accurate statement would be that the only thing worse than being sad is being sad by yourself. I think in our efforts to appear strong and happy when we’re not, we miss out on great opportunities for advancement in community. Something I’ve learned is that sharing joy is important, but to be vulnerable is to be human in the most sincere way. I think this is where growth happens.
Maybe that’s why the Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens in love.