Saturday, October 17, 2009

Compassion: How to Support the Ones We Love


"Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family."

Proverbs 18:24 translation: The Message

Yesterday I sat at the doctor's office waiting for my turn. I have had a sinus infection the past few days and wasn't feeling well. The poor soundproofing enabled me to hear the doctor's conversations with the patient next door. The woman sounded awful. Her cough was loud and loose. It was the kind of cough that makes your ribcage ache. I could tell she was very ill. I heard the doctor inform her that she had the flu. He proceeded to tell her what she probably already knew by listing all the over-the-counter medications she could use. She asked how long the symptoms would last. He explained. She followed up by reminding him she had to return to work soon. I heard the sound of frustration in her voice. I suspected this appointment hadn't really helped. She left the building in the same condition she entered it: still running a fever, coughing, and in pain. My heart went out to her.

How many times are we in this situation with someone we know? They are in pain and we want to help them. The woman at the doctor's office was hoping for a cure. Instead she learned that there wasn't a quick fix nor was she comforted by the doctor's efforts. I often hear painful stories at my workplace. Being a psychologist means people tell me things even though they don't want to be reminded of. It's hard. I wish I could make the pain go away by changing their circumstances, but know I can't. Through the years I have learned some tips that do help. We may not be able to change an individual's situation or condition, but we can bring comfort. I have heard over and over again how one can tell who their true friends are during difficult times. Too many of us pull away and avoid people in pain. A real friend sticks around.

Over the next few days, I would like to pass on a few tips on how to be a compassionate friend. It is my hope that next time you are around someone who is suffering you will feel less awkward and better equipped.

Video of Leeland and Brandon Heath "Follow You"
example of compassionate love

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