The Mighty Logo

We Shouldn't Feel Embarrassed About the Health Struggles We Face

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

As I approached my car with a handful of groceries I heard a sweet voice call out, “Do you hear that?”

To my right was a petite elderly woman with a cart full of groceries.

“Do you hear a car beeping?” she clarified.

I did not. After quickly putting my grocery bags in the backseat of my Jeep, I walked over to where she was repeatedly pressing the remote start, hoping to hear her black Impala’s alert.

“I don’t hear very well,” she said with embarrassment. After reassuring her that I frequently wander around parking lots looking for my lost car, I wound around the rows of salt-stained tires listening for her car’s alert.

After finding it on the opposite side of the lot, I pushed her shopping cart as we walked to her forlorn vehicle, and together we filled her trunk with bags of produce and fresh bread.

“Can I hug you?” she asked before embracing me. As she did I heard the loud hum of her right hearing aid. “I feel so silly. You are my angel,” she said. After again reassuring her that I frequently use the emergency alert to find my car in much smaller parking lots, we each drove off to fill our fridges and kitchen pantries.

That sweet woman made it very clear to me how thankful she was for the need I was able to fill in her parking lot chaos. What I was unable to make clear to her was how she had also filled mine. She had allowed me to feel purposeful amidst my weaknesses.

As I drove home I was filled with joy at the thought of having the opportunity to fill a need. I think we all have an innate desire to be useful. It gives us a kind of purpose.

In the same stroke that I was happy to have been able to help that woman, I was disheartened that she was embarrassed to have had to ask for it. It is wildly unfortunate that a woman who surely has leaps and bounds of life experience would feel ashamed by the fact that she cannot hear well, or cannot remember where she parked. Why do we feel such shame about our weaknesses?

What that sweet lady did not know was why I was at the grocery store in the middle of the day. That I was not rushing to work, or home to relieve the babysitter. My agenda merely included another doctor appointment. I did not tell her that it is not uncommon for me to have to quickly leave the grocery store in the middle of my shopping trip because I get sick. That even when I try to perfectly time my outings with my attempts to eat, I still often have to quickly reroute due to impending sickness. I may have been able to quickly help her to her car, but I have many weaknesses.

If I had another moment with that woman I would thank her for the opportunity to authentically share life with her that afternoon. I would thank her for demonstrating the strength to ask for help when she had a need.

As much as culture tells us that purpose lies in success and accomplishment, moments like this remind me that true joy lies in sharing real life. Real life is not full of wins, trophies, A-pluses and perfect hair days. Real life is often messy. It is full of sickness, hearing loss and failures.

And that is not necessarily a bad thing. When we transparently allow people to enter in to our weaknesses and failures we have the beautiful opportunity to grow with people. Can you imagine how boring a life of perfection would be?

In Scripture, we are promised that “in this world we will have trouble” (John 16:33). It is a certainty.

Isn’t that comforting? As much as we strive for perfection, life on earth is not meant to be perfect.

So let’s stop pretending that it is. Let’s get down and dirty with each other and share our struggles and embarrassments as loudly as we proclaim our wins and successes.

Follow this journey on Melissa Chooses Joy.

Originally published: April 2, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home