Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Just Show Up

Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together, by Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn
Publisher: David C. Cook
Publication date: October 1, 2015
Category: Biographies & Memoir, Christian
Source: I received this galley from the publisher via NetGalley in consideration of review.

Where to start? The publication of Just Show Up comes just six months after the passing of co-author Kara Tippetts. Tippetts published a book about her journey with aggressive cancer in October 2014, which I read and reviewed here in May. The book was about much more than cancer and I was awed by her faith. This connection did further my interest in Just Show Up, but not as much as the title itself. Much like Nike's "Just Do It" campaign, this book makes its topic a statement, rather than a question or consideration. The connection is that I find myself in a position in life right now to be of help to others, specifically in ways that I needed help in the past, but didn't always have it. I've learned it's not always easy helping others or being a volunteer and it's not always obvious how to be of good help. That's where this book comes in.

I gained two valuable insights from this book about helping others. The first is how the helping affects the person showing up. It's important to keep in mind that "showing up for another, extending yourself for another is always costly." It may be a sacrifice of comfort, time, money, and even your own emotions. Buteyn states simply that "showing up can get us hurt in the biggest way," whether it's that you are hurt by others in the process or the fact that the person you're helping is hurting and you feel his/her pain. 

So why bother? Buteyn says it best: "Friends. Community. It is the only way to know and be known. It’s where we see our own humanity and frailty, our gifts and our weaknesses. But when we show up for one another we invade each other in love, and become witnesses to the truth that trials and sickness and pain are not the whole story. There’s more, so much more. We can remind one another that our lives are not a mistake. And most importantly, that we are loved with an everlasting love." That's pretty powerful, but it's not easy. I can attest to the roller coaster emotions of being involved in the lives of those you care for. It helps to remember that the hardest things are usually the most worthwhile. And people are always worthwhile.

So, if you're ready to accept the difficulties of helping, the next thing to consider is, is the help you're offering actually helpful? The worst case is that you're causing stress or even a little more work for those you are trying to relieve of a burden. Here are a few aspects I found most valuable about helping people:

1. "So many people offer to help. They say, let me know if you need anything, but that offer is easily dismissed because it’s too broad." Making a noncommittal comment puts stress on our friends in need by handing the decision over to them and asking them to get back to us. (Although there are times where the person in need must reach out first.)

2. "If we go and serve not expecting to see them, even telling the family we’re not asking for their time, that is another gift we can give. Drop the meal off, do the laundry, or pick up the kids without expectations. People are going to welcome you when you want to serve because you aren’t making it about you." This can be difficult because you naturally want to interact with the people you love enough to serve; but, depending on the situation, it's not always feasible. So, if serving them in love as they need is truly your motivation, then this is a good point to keep in mind.

3. Kind of tied to number two, but possibly it's own thing at times, is the idea of "loving your person by releasing expectations that would remain with a normal friendship." Situations, especially where there's suffering, "can steal friendship moments from us—ones we really want to keep having. We crave those same conversations we used to have and the time we used to spend together." Depending on the situation, the typical aspects of your friendship may change and it's only fair to accept the changes because most situations that go this far are out of our hands, as well as theirs.

4. Don't offer platitudes, especially in suffering. And if details aren't offered, do not seek or press for them. "Our desire to fix things can often get in the way of our silent, listening support." Usually listening alone is what a person needs most. No need to fill it in with our own words when we don't know what to say. (I know trying to fill a silence is a habit I need to break.)

That's a whole lot of good information right there, but it's not done. The end of this book is invaluable as well. Remember that piece at the beginning warning us of the difficulties in helping someone? Buteyn revisits that topic, explaining to the reader exactly what a helper might feel (she speaks to hurt, jealousy, and insecurity), what the truth is, and how to fight those feelings. It is an extremely important section to the book.

It seems I've told so much of this book, yet there is much more. Not to mention, the details and examples missing from the points I briefly made. If you find yourself in a position of helper to friends and family in hard situations, this book is exactly what you need. Rereading the notes I made during my first reading was amazing in itself!

Any other good advice you've heard about helping others?

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