The difference between comfort and nurture is this: if you have a plant that is sick because you keep it in a dark closet, and you say soothing words to it, that is comfort. If you take the plant out of the closet and put it in the sun, give it something to drink, and then talk to it, that is nurture.Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés
I’ve got a friend who is a touchstone for me, someone who constantly pushes me back toward my center, toward the sun. And she doesn’t even have to be near me to work this sort of healing. I’ve been around her enough that I’ve internalized bits of the ways she moves through the world and, when I’m feeling conflicted, I lean on her wisdom (that’s become my own) to guide my choices.
We all need a friend like her. But in case there’s a vacuum in your world and you find yourself stuck in a dark closet, I’ll share the alchemy of her magic with you:
She is unwaveringly honest. And kind.
I’ve been around folks who hide behind honesty, using it as a sword, swinging it about, lopping off heads left and right if they get too close or get out of line. That kind of cold honesty keeps people at a distance. If it happens to be directed at you, it leaves you shivering, exposed and wounded.
This is not that.
Her truth isn’t something you have to brace yourself for. It’s woven flawlessly in her interactions. She isn’t the kind of person who builds up the courage to tell you something, acting like she wishes she didn’t have to say it. Making you feel like, if only you’d done better, we wouldn’t all be in this painful moment of truth-telling.
We all know that type.
This is not that, either.
It’s refreshing to be around her. Never once have I had to second-guess a word she said. I’m never afraid she’s going to commit to doing something she doesn’t want to do/can’t do just to appease me. I know exactly where I stand all the time.
And the “difficult” things that sometimes need to be said in the world, well they just don’t seem that difficult when she says them. I’d say she delivers truth with unflinching honesty–but that doesn’t feel quite true. Because “unflinching” implies a harshness that simply isn’t there. She delivers truth as if it were water and sunshine, things that will help you thrive.
She is a healer, a truth-sayer, a nurturer.
And that’s really the thing: she doesn’t comfort. There are not platitudes to be had around her. There’s no pretending. Sometimes it feels like she’s simply reimagined the whole world into this place where we all live our truth with kindness and magnanimity.
As a recovering passive-aggressive, sometimes I find myself realizing I need to be honest about a hard truth (instead of squashing it down and then making everyone suffer in the name of my martyrdom). Or I find myself on the brink of committing to something that strips the joy out of my soul–but I’m just convinced I can’t say no to.
And those, those are the moments she moves me out into the sun and offers me a drink of water. Because, instead of acting in ways that move me further from my own truth, I drop my ridiculous pretenses, take a breath and think about what she’d do.
The result is approximately one billion times better for everyone involved.
Her presence in my life has moved me toward a place where honesty is less something I have to perform and more and more just something that is laced into who I am.
She’s pushed me to be a nurturer not a comforter. Because everyone deserves sunlight, water, and encouragement. She’s taught me to imagine what it would look like if we all just lived our truths right out in the sun. It’s a beautiful vision.
And she’s done all this simply by being who she is.