Friday, November 13, 2009

Tip #4: A Common Mistake to Avoid When Supporting Others


"…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

Proverbs 18:24b

In previous blogs I have covered what I consider to be the most important aspects of compassionate support. They are:

1. Be patient. Everyone experiences pain differently. Each of us will have our own expressions of suffering and our own healing time.

2. Be Accepting. Not everyone shows pain the same way or grieves alike.

3. Express support by using reflective listening. Be slow to offer advice. Instead show sympathy or empathy by actively listening to the one in pain.

4. Offer tangible support by using one of Gary Chapman's five love languages. Be sure you know which language particularly encourages and ministers to the one you are supporting.

Now I would like to encourage you not to make a common mistake. In the counseling office, I have listened to many stories of loss and trauma. There is an error people make when they try to comfort the suffering. Usually it comes from that awkwardness I mentioned in previous blogs. You see the pain in your loved one and recognize your sense of helplessness. Now what. How do you help? So, in this frustration you respond out of this awkwardness. What often happens is the suffering person is given encouragement or an effort is made to "talk them out" of their feelings. These comments often come off as shallow or crass. They end up creating more pain and may permanently damage your relationship. Let me give some examples of such comments:

"God must have needed your baby as another angel."
"You can always have more children."
"I 've had this happen to me and it will be over before you know it."
"Keep your chin up!"
"You should try Coral Calcium, it did wonders for me."
"Don't lose hope."
"Remember God never gives us more than we can bear." ---this is a misquote that has to do with temptation.

All of these comments come from an effort to care for another, but they have more to do with comforting the speaker than empathizing with the listener. If you feel paralyzed by the intensity of your loved one's pain, you are better off saying nothing then to say the wrong thing. I think the greatest comfort I have received in times of difficulty is someone simply standing beside me and offering me a hug or to hold my hand. It is your presence that is the help, not your words.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for the tips. It really helped when I need to listen to my daughter who found her best friend was departing her.

    It also helped my wife so that she did not make too many comments.

    Those tips are in time for 'need".