Editor's note: "The Spoken Word" is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.
Can we ever truly know a person just by looking at his or her outward appearance? Is it possible to discern someone's inner self, the private struggles he or she faces? Many people work hard to maintain a flawless or carefree image. Others are simply private and don't always feel comfortable sharing their concerns and cares with others. But even those who present a strong, capable exterior usually have doubts and heartaches they do not share.
Once, a man slipped on a wet floor at his workplace and dropped the stack of papers he was carrying. To the surprise of his coworkers, as he knelt to pick them up he burst into tears. He had worries that went far deeper than dropping some paperwork. As he shared his sorrows, he found that compassion and caring were all around him — people simply hadn't known about the burden he was carrying.
When we choose to keep our problems invisible, to bear everything in silence, we often miss out on the love and support we might otherwise receive. If we are willing to remove the walls that hide our inner selves, we will also remove the barriers to deeper friendships and needed help with the trials we face.
Professor and popular speaker Brené Brown puts it this way: "Connection is why we're here. It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. … In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen."(see "The Power of Vulnerability," talk given at TEDxHouston, June 2010, ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability/transcript).
In reality, everyone is fighting an invisible battle of some kind, and knowing this inspires us to extend greater compassion and empathy to those around us. By giving others the benefit of the doubt, we can provide a foundation of acceptance that allows for the sharing, openness, and deeper connection we all need.
As the author of "The Little Prince" wrote_, "_It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
When we truly care about a person, and let that person care about us, our hearts can discern far more than our eyes can observe. And the caring and closeness that result benefit us all.