Let’s pretend for a moment that you were having a hard time.
Not that YOU would ever have a hard time, but humor me anyway.
Maybe you received a test result from a doctor that you weren’t expecting. Maybe you’ve been searching for a job for months with nothing to show for it. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Maybe your spouse decided they didn’t love you anymore. Maybe your favorite shirt shrunk in the dryer. Or maybe your favorite TV show has been cancelled.
Sure, there’s some extremes there, but each one is legitimate in its own right. I promise I will do my best not to judge you and your struggle, and I’m begging you to return the favor. It’s a very prideful person that would decipher who is “allowed” to be hurting/struggling and who isn’t. I think we could all admit we don’t fully understand another person’s struggles simply because we haven’t lived that person’s life.
Now that we’ve got that groundwork laid, I think it’s important to share some advice with you.
Stop giving advice. (See what I did there?)
Stop with the cliches.
Stop with the cute sayings with floral backgrounds you found on Pinterest. (Things will be OK in the end. If they’re not OK, it’s not the end…This one makes me with it were the end!)
Stop with the “Christianese” answers. (God will never give you more than you can handle– wrong.)
Or the “You should read this book”. (It’ll just get added to the stack)
Keep reading, I promise I’ll clear some things up.
I’ve given you my “NOT-TO-DO” list, but you may be wondering: So what DO you want people to do, Holly?!?
I’m glad you asked!
And if they’re into that kind of thing give them a hug. 🙂 Maybe they’d prefer a high-five, or an awkward side hug, or an arm squeeze.
Listening seems pretty straight forward, but I fear it may need some clarifying. It doesn’t mean listening with one ear and doing a mental “Google search” for some trite response. I’ve done that before, I’ll admit it. I’ll be listening to a friend who is telling me how how they’re hurting and my brain will pick up on a key word/theme and then I start thinking of every book, Scripture verse, or Snapple fact I’ve read that could possibly relate to the situation.
Just listen. Hand them a tissue if they start to tear up. Look them in the eyes. Really listen.
Now for the love part. This part is a little bit more tricky because each person is different and receives love in different ways. If they’ve told you about a physical pain, instead of just saying “I’ll be praying for you!” actually pray for them. Ya, like right there. I don’t care that it’s the ice cream aisle at the grocery store. If they’ve told you they’re struggling financially, send them a gift card in the mail or hand them a 20 spot. If they’re lonely, call them up a few days later and ask them if they’d like to get a coffee.
Or, simply tell them you love them and you care.
As I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again and again, as Christians we don’t have to have ALL the answers. Yes, God, Jesus the Bible and all the Sunday School answers are easy to spew out, as a cover-up when a simple “I don’t know” would be more honest.
I don’t know why you aren’t married yet.
I don’t know why you have cancer.
I don’t know why that person said that hurtful thing.
Also, and maybe this is just a personality thing, but sometimes just hearing someone say they love me brings some comfort. I’m a “words of affirmation” girl, with “Gifts of Chocolate” as a close second. 😉
And if during the week, there’s a Bible verse that you think would give them hope, by all means share it with them. I’m not saying *all* advice/encouragement is useless. Just the thoughtless kind.
Don’t give out dimes by the dozen when a person needs a treasure to hold onto.