You know, we live in a world where people are being pushed to the limits with finances, health issues, child rearing, relationships, world events, wars, natural disasters …. people are suffering.
The worst thing we can do is shut ourselves in , shut-up, and shut the world and people out of our lives. Now more than ever we need to get out of ourselves, to look around at what is going on … to listen with compassion and care to those people who are trying to hang on by the skin of their fingernails …. and to be a moments refuge from an angry winters day.
This is not a time for judgment.
1. Listen to what the person is saying. Hear them. Let them speak. Encourage them to write or to talk or to do whatever they can to get the feelings out. Lets stop isolating ourselves, lets stop judging people who share. These are their feelings, how they see things. They need that validated. You do that by letting them get it out and encouraging them to share. You don’t get to decide if they are right or wrong, or up or down. It doesn’t matter. FEELINGS – they are what they are.
2. Just be with that person. If it is appropriate, touch their shoulder, their hand … HUG them …..for crying out loud, remember hugs?
3. Let them cry if they can and need to. You can cry with them if you like. Sometimes just being able to release, to cry on someone’s shoulder, to feel love and supported…. is all that is needed to keep going another day.
4. Let them know you care. You can say something like, “I care about you, I am sorry you are having such a difficult time. I can see it is really wearing you down. ” You don’t have to provide answers, you don’t have to solve anything.
5. Do not offer them stupid euphemisms like “tomorrow is another day” or “cup half full” stories. This is not the time or place for these.
6. Do not lecture them on what they did wrong to cause this situation. This is not the time or place.
7. Do not lecture them about God and what He would or wouldn’t do in this situation. Two comments. People use this usually to point out what you are doing wrong – they seldom apply it to their own conduct. These phrases are always offered INSTEAD of any actual effort that might be helpful or meaningful. It’s a big cop out. You know what the Saviour would do? He would roll up his sleeves and see what there was that needed to be done. He would put his arms around the person and cry with them. He would encourage them …. help them find a way to get up and keep going. So stop speaking like you are God’s personal representative and that your lack of compassion and harsh judgment has anything to do with “what the Saviour would do.” Second of all, there is a well understood ladder of human needs. It is like a pyramid of requirements for human beings. At the base is food and shelter. If a human being does not have that, they are not really capable of worrying about emotional needs like relationships, and they certainly are not capable of understanding and embracing spiritual things.
Jesus fed the people before he started talking. Think about it.
8. Do not say things like “if there is ever anything I can do to help, just let me know,” especially if you do not mean it – say nothing. Even if you do mean it … don’t say it. Take a moment and look at the situation and offer something concrete that you are actually willing to do. Set the parameters and the time.”Look, I drive downtown everyday because I need my car for work, your work is right on the way, can I pick you up and drive you for the next 4 weeks? You said you will have the down payment for a new car by then and you should be able to get your cast off. ” And then follow through.
9. Don’t give people money unless you are truly prepared to give it to them. When we give money or things to people, with expectations of how they should use it, or when we give money we cannot afford to give, we can actually make the situation worse. Give what you really can, and give it without any strings. If it is paid back bonus .. if not .. and you were prepared for that .. everyone will be fine.
10. Don’t ever assume that because someone is having a hard time that you are somehow better, more loved, more important, smarter, prettier .. whatever … because you aren’t. History has shown time and again that those people most tried and tested are often the people who left this world a better place for all of us. These are the people who changed the world, whom everyone can admire and remember. No-one really talks about the people who partied and shopped while they judged the less fortunate as, “losers who deserved what they got.”
AFTER a person opens up, there is time for action, time to make plans – to deal with what is happening right now and move forward. Blame and Guilt serve no-one .. in fact .. they often are the biggest impediment to dealing with any problem. Help the person to live .. not just survive. The little things mean a lot .. a good meal, good conversation, laughter … all those things that connect us and remind us that we are human and that life can be good. Don’t just tell someone where they need to be and what they have to do .. go with them .. check on them .. encourage them. Help them to find the strength within themselves they will need to make it through .. and ALWAYS be willing to let go of the bike and let them try themselves.
We teach our children what life is really about, not by the words we speak, but by the actions we take on a daily basis. Life will come and go and all the “treasures” we accumulate will eventually be a pile of discarded rubbish. As life strips away all those things we have spent our lives pursuing .. money, possessions, power, position, prestige …we are left raw and naked, standing amongst one another, looking for meaning. We can rage against a world that has taken everything from us or we can be thankful that we finally have one last chance to find our humanity, to connect to the people around us, to love and be loved.
I think the greatest distance measured in our lives, when all is said and done, will be when we come face to face with who we might have been and then reflect up on who we are. As we look at those two dynamics and see the distance between the two – a distance filled with a life of empty pursuits and meaningless “things” … I am sure I will weep.