One of my best friends from grad school, Dr. Martha Smith, is one of the most anointed Christian counselors I know. So when Martha shares something from the healing community on social media, I pay attention. She recently posted this link on Facebook about sadness. It’s an easy read, direct, practical and helpful in my personal journey with grief.
The article is titled “Your Sadness Doesn’t Equal Weakness,” from the clinical psychologists that put “boundaries” in the lay person’s vocabulary, Henry Cloud and John Townsend. They teach that repression of sadness can lead to depression. They warn against our culture’s tendency to believe that grieving is a sign of weakness, when in reality embracing the grief cycle leads us to strength.
For many outside of counseling circles, processing grief can be somewhat cryptic. Obviously it is more than just saying, “I’m sad,” although that’s a good start. For me, it’s a season of letting the feelings come, leaning into the truth that we are the beloved of Christ, and allowing community to nurture us. It’s moments in time of vulnerability with others and ourselves. Process is uncovering other emotions attached to sadness. It’s an openness to God and the gifts he has for us even in the valley of suffering.
Townsend and Cloud note: “When we lose our ability to feel sad, we lose our tenderness. It is a major aspect of ourselves that must be protected at all costs. If we can’t feel sad, we get coldhearted.” I would add that feeling sad leads to empathy. We become warmhearted toward the pain of others when are willing to acknowledge our own.
Perhaps this is where our real strength lies. We move through sadness not only for ourselves, but for the sake of others. We move through sadness to strength to be the compassion of Jesus that he has been to us.