Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility


By Eric A. Clayton

Not long ago, I was running on a wooded path not far from my house when I misjudged a muddy patch and went down hard. I lay unceremoniously in that wet pile of mischievous leaves, catching my breath. After a moment, I struggled to my feet, assessing the situation. My whole body was caked in mud, my blue shirt hardly recognizable by that color. There was blood oozing out of my hands and my arms, and I could barely stand to look at my knees.

It had been an epic fall. And loud, apparently.

“You alright, man?” This from a guy further up the path, his dogs treading much more carefully than I had through the slippery leaves.

“Yeah,” I grunted.

“Sounded like a bad fall. I heard you go down.”

I smiled. “It was.”

“It always sucks when someone’s around to see you do something like that, right?” He laughed, and so did I.

“Thanks for your kindness,” I said, offering a slight wave as I turned to jog back the way I’d come, the way home.

As I made my way over much drier pavement, worrying over what folks might think if they glimpsed my bloodied, muddied self through their window or from their cars, I thought on the stranger’s words.

It sucks when someone’s around to see you do something like that. Something embarrassing — that’s the meaning I took from his comment. We don’t like to be embarrassed. And, perhaps, we don’t like to show weakness in the presence of another.

My fall was so epic, though, that part of me was glad someone was around to appreciate it. But what’s more, I’m glad someone was around in case I actually needed help.

I wonder, then: Why do we have this baked-in, knee-jerk reaction that says, “Oh — I want to suffer in anonymous silence; I don’t want anyone to see my embarrassment, my pain, my failures.” If we don’t let others see us, we can’t get the help we might need.

But more so than this, I think about our Lenten journey, where we’re headed. We’re called to bear witness to Jesus suffering on the cross. We’re called to bear witness to Christ still suffering among us — from war and famine and abuse and loneliness. We’re called to look lovingly at reality, the real hurts and joys and sorrows and smiles of all creation.

Because that man on the path — sure, he said the thing, he played the part we all so often resort to: “Oh, I didn’t really see the pain you experienced.” But he also came to my aid without reservation. He didn’t look away, ignore me, cross to the other side.

As we near the end of our Lenten journey, let’s commit to bearing witness to Christ’s suffering, both on Good Friday and on whatever day it is you read these words. Let’s commit to see the truth of the moment and to step forward in love to wipe away the blood and the mud and those mischievous leaves.

Because it doesn’t suck when someone sees you fall. It sucks when someone ignores you in your pain and pretends you aren’t even there at all.

This reflection is part of the award-winning weekly email series, “Now Discern This.” If you’d like to get reflections like this one directly in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.

a person smiling for the cameraEric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith and My Life with the Jedi: The Spirituality of Star Wars, an exploration of Star Wars through the lens of Ignatian spirituality (Loyola Press). He is the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America MagazineNational Catholic ReporterU.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, Small Wonders Magazine, Air and Nothingness Press and more.  Sign up for his Substack “Story Scraps” here. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat.