The old gray donkey, Eeyore, stood by himself in a thistly corner of the forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, ‘Why?’ and sometimes he thought, ‘Wherefore?’ and sometimes he thought, ‘Inasmuch as which?’- and sometimes he didn’t quite know what he was thinking about. ~A.A. Milne, The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh
For some reason, I keep getting thrown into close proximity with Eeyores. You know the type. They just can’t see the sun for the clouds.
“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he.
In any given situation, they foresee its dismal end.
Eeyore nodded gloomily at him. “It will rain soon, you see if it doesn’t,” he said.
Often, they don’t like seem to like themselves very much.
While checking out his reflection in a stream: “As I thought,” he said. “No better from this side. But nobody minds. Nobody cares. Pathetic, that’s what it is.”
But it’s nothing compared to how they view others.
Upon discovering that his tail was missing: “Somebody must have taken it,” said Eeyore. “How Like Them,” he added, after a long silence.
Everything is always all wrong and they’ll tell you all about it. For hours.
“I don’t mind Tigger being in the Forest,” he went on, “because it’s a large Forest, and there’s plenty of room to bounce in it. But I don’t see why he should come into my little corner of it, and bounce there. It isn’t as if there was anything very wonderful about my little corner. Of course for people who like cold, wet, ugly bits it is something rather special, but otherwise it’s just a corner, and if anybody feels bouncy—“
Embroiled in their misery, they have no time for anyone else’s problems.
“It’s bad enough,” said Eeyore, almost breaking down, “being miserable myself, what with no presents and no cake and no candles, and no proper notice taken of me at all, but if everyone else is going to be miserable too–“
They don’t have anything nice to say, and they say it. All. The. Time.
I have a confession. Eeyores get on my last nerve, ya’ll.
Still, I realize that, as a Christian, I have been called to love others. Even the ones that grate on my nerves. Maybe especially the ones that grate on my nerves.
So, in my flesh, I love them by attempting to cheer them up.
I get overly and aggressively bubbly to demonstrate joyful living…at least until my bubbles get popped one by one with pins of complaint.
I crack jokes, and put on a show, to get Eeyores to laugh…at least until my sense of humor runs dry and my show becomes a farce.
I listen to their woes and try to put a positive spin on each one…at least until wave after wave of negativity drowns out my attempts.
The honest truth is, I can’t maintain constant good will. Like sandpaper, Eeyores have a way of grinding down even my best intentions over time. Eventually, my own cheerful demeanor is nothing but dust and I want to scream, “Just stop whining and pretend everything is fine like the rest of us!”
Pretend everything is fine.
Like the rest of us.
Truth be told, I’m a bit of an Eeyore myself. At least internally. Caught up in my own problems. Hard on myself. Easily offended. Frequently fretting over some possible negative future. And I have even less patience for myself than I do for my fellow doomsayers.
My own personal mantra has long been suck-it-up-princess-life-is-hard-you-gotta-be-tough.
And I have sucked it up. My parents’ divorce. The physical, mental, and sexual abuse I suffered as a child. The isolation of being friendless until 8th grade. Fourteen years as a single mom.
‘Cause life was hard. Sexual assault. Abandonment. Mental illness. Addiction.
So I was tough. Mouthy and bitter and angry and fierce. Constantly stomping down that inner Eeyore.
Until I broke. In 2011 the emotional dam I had built to contain my sorrow gave way. Years of unresolved heartache tore forth and I wept. I wept and I wept and I wept. For four years, all I could do was weep.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:…
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance Ecclesiastes 3:1,4, NIV
No amount of stern talking-to by my inner voice could get me to “suck-up” that deluge. The full weight of the hardships I had faced came crashing down on me. I didn’t have one single shred of tough left to combat it.
And I am convinced that the fury and longevity of that storm was partially my own fault. Because, for so long, I did not mourn when I should have. Some things need to be mourned. Destruction should produce a season of sorrow.
So why do I insist upon offering the Eeyores I meet the same old temporary solution that failed me? What should I be doing instead?
I honestly have no easy answers. I was not strong enough to pull myself out of my darkness. How could I ever hope to accomplish that for someone else? And so I am left wondering how to best love an Eeyore. Perhaps the answer lies in Romans 12:15.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15, NIV
Perhaps I need to learn to mourn with those who mourn.
Photo Credit: Adapted from Extreme Eeyore by JD Hancock on Flickr; used under Creative Commons License.