Training ourselves to look past our differences

Published 7:36 am Monday, May 13, 2024

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We’re all carrying something, a burden that holds us down or a trauma that hasn’t healed. We’re all carrying pain and frustration, and it’s so hard sometimes because we aren’t taught well how to hold and handle our pain. As a pastor, I hear things like this all the time. Whenever people make appointments to meet with me, the vast majority come because they’re suffering under the weight of that something, whatever it is. They’re haunted by regret, haunted by a choice they made that has had long-standing consequences. Some are haunted by grief, unable to get the healing they need to ensure their grief doesn’t control their daily lives.

As an alcoholic and a member of AA, I know that so many of my fellow addicts fell into their drug of choice because they didn’t know how to handle or respond to the pain they experienced. I turned to alcohol because it was an easy way to numb my emotions, to suppress them so they didn’t feel so big. I thought this was an acceptable way to move through the world until I realized that suppressing those emotions meant that when they inevitably returned, they returned with a vengeance!

I see and encounter many people in my work, and the commonalities far surpass our differences. Below the superficialities and identities we construct for ourselves, we are fragile creatures needing love, affirmation, and companionship. How different would our interactions with people be if we could train ourselves to look past the differences and find the beating heart of another fellow traveler making their way through this strange journey called life?

AA has taught me that there is real power when two or three people gather together and simply talk about their struggles. That’s how AA came to be, just folks around a table talking about their struggles and hoping to find a solution. That same principle can be applied to our everyday lives. I know I wouldn’t feel so alone in my struggles if I said to someone I trust, “It’s hard for me today. Will you help me hold my pain?”

Today, choose to own your feelings, whatever they may be. Let yourself feel everything, including the things you’d rather hide from. Seek out sources of support like mental health specialists and decide to move through, and then beyond, the shackles of your pain. And then, when you see someone hurting, choose to offer them some kindness. “I’m here how you need me.” Something that simple might be all someone needs to remember that there can indeed be a better tomorrow. Call me or email me if you think I could be helpful. Our number is 252-946-8151, and my email is

One person at a time, one life at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time, one city at a time…that’s how we transform the world. And it begins with kindness, connection, and compassion.

Chris Adams is the Rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.