Photo credit: NBC
Last night I was watching Chicago Fire, an episode where one of the main characters, Hermann, goes into a burning building with a friend & fellow firefighter from another house. In a split second trying to save a man trapped inside, the two men are separated in the smoke & Hermann makes it out alive, but his friend doesn’t.
There’s this scene where Hermann is staring in the mirror in the bathroom, wrecked over this death, just hours after it happened, and his co-worker Mouch comes in and puts his hand around his shoulder & tries to comfort him. You can see how much Hermann wants to cry, and he starts to. Just as he finally starts to release the pain (which is, my friends, what tears were created for), his friend shakes his shoulders and says, “Hey, it’s one foot in front of the other, buddy….we just keep moving forward. We’re going to go put our gear away, get a cup a coffee, and then we’re going to go show up for his family. You hear me?!”
Why have we taught men that this is what it looks like to be a man? To “soldier on”, “put on a brave face” and “move on?”
Do you know what STUFFED PAIN turns into?
Pain. Poison. Dis-ease. Cancer. Heart attacks. Anger. Mental illness. Addiction. PTSD.
If I could rewrite that scene, Mouch would have held Hermann’s shoulders & said, In that instant, Hermann would have felt so seen and heard & understood, he would have broken down in sobs, and for that one moment alone in the bathroom (and for all the world watching), it would have been OK for two men to cry, to grieve, to express their hearts.
What would have happened next?
I can tell you, from real life experience, after losing 28 people in 8 years, I can tell you what empathy does.
It doesn’t erase the pain, but it does bubble-wrap it.
It gives us the strength to go on.
It stops addiction before it starts. It stops depression before it starts. It could literally save a life. I know it has saved mine…many times.
“Moving on” is only truly possible if first we move through the pain. Not around it, but through it. As my dear friend always says, “You gotta feel it to heal it.”
Oprah said it best on her final episode of The Oprah Show, “I’ve interviewed over 40,000 people & they all had one thing in common. They all wanted validation. They all wanted to know, ‘Do you see me? Does what I say matter to you?'”
The is the answer to everything is: EMPATHY. How about we paint a new picture of what it looks like to be a man? Give each other permission to be human. Walk beside each other through the pain, not around it. ❤
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