Last week, we explored this wonderful movie: A beautiful day in the neighborhood. The movie revolves around a relationship that Mr. Rogers had with a reporter. Just by being himself, Mr. Rogers helps the reporter through a very difficult situation with his father. In a very powerful moment, Mr. Rogers shares some words about death with the reporter and his family:
I think death can be a hard thing to talk about. But to die is to be human.
And anything that’s human is mention-able. And anything that is mention-able, is manageable.
Wow. This is truly something to think about: What does it mean that anything that’s mention-able is manageable? In this moment when Mr. Rogers gave this guidance, he wanted to encourage them to discuss death, which really seemed unmanageable to them. They were avoiding it and pushing it aside because they were afraid. Fear is a force that can keep us from bringing certain realities to the surface. We are afraid to say we’re scared and anxious about death, or anything for that matter, because our real fear is that we might not be able to handle it. As Mr. Rogers said, to die is to be human. Something that is common to all of us should be “mentioned” because it should be faced. And because it’s talked about in community, the community will provide the necessary support.
Another reason why certain things are hard to mention is because they are hard to acknowledge. It’s easy to convince ourselves that, if I don’t say it, then it isn’t real. Saying something out loud brings it to the forefront. Naming it makes it real. If I hide it away, will it disappear? This is a question that is commonly asked and often answered the same way. It might disappear for a moment, but it always reappears. It comes to mind, it enters your heart, and can even take a toll on your body…until it rolls off your lips.
Painful things may also spend time below the surface because we assume that our pain won’t be received well. Maybe we worry that admitting a struggle will break a relationship. Or, we may be concerned that we are seen as weak or unstable because we aren’t able to handle something on our own. What’s beautiful is that the most common result of sharing pain is peace. Relationships are often strengthened and the courage to share is honored and celebrated. Co-suffering takes incredible amounts of strength and actually brings relationships and communities closer together.
Speaking about something that is causing pain may elevate the pain at first. Spending time on it takes energy and fuels the fire in some ways. However, as Mr. Rogers said, mentioning it creates an opportunity to manage it. If you let the pain remain inside, it will likely just keep growing and may become unmanageable. We are not meant to suffer alone. We are designed to face the truth and to face it together. To mention our pain is to take the first step towards working through it.
Facing what is most difficult lightens the burden…especially when the burden is being shared. It sets you on the road to peace, joy, and healing to spend some time working through the pain. Let it be mentioned so that it can be managed.