I’m a pretty sensitive person, so when I see someone suffering, their pain is very tangible to me — and I really, really want to help.
I don’t have a problem feeling empathetic or sympathetic.
I don’t have a problem feeling anything at all — I can pretty much feel everything, actually.
My problem, on the other hand, sometimes comes down to navigating through those feelings — moving from feeling into action.
I struggle with what to say to someone in a crisis, how to reach out and let them know I’m sorry they’re suffering, that I want to be there for them, and help them get through it.
I’m way past thinking, “Can I help this person?” because I know the answer is: yes.
Saint Francis of Assisi said, “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”
So now, I think, “What can I do right now to help this person?”
And my mind often goes blank.
I can’t exactly pinpoint why. Sometimes, I’m just silenced by their suffering, which is so raw & which makes them so vulnerable.
Maybe it’s because I don’t see that very often in our society — where everyone seems so put together, with everything in its rightful place.
Maybe it’s because most people don’t know how to communicate that they’re suffering — to begin with, let alone how to cope with others suffering.
Maybe it’s because we’re not taught to share our suffering, in fear that it may make us seem weak.
Maybe it’s because I can actually relate to that suffering, myself…
Either way, I really struggle with my words when I’m faced with someone who I know is suffering.
So I found this article very helpful; It’s a list of things people with chronic pain or illness do want to hear (as opposed to this list here, of things they don’t want to hear). And speaking from experience, as I deal with my own chronic illness, this list is pretty close to perfect — but you’ll see I add my own twist later on.
Now, I don’t think that this list only applies to people who are sick — I think it can very well apply to many more people who are suffering in one way or another, if you just tweek each of them a bit.
Here’s a quick wrap-up of them (in bold). For further explanation of each one, you can read the entire article here.
“You look so good, but how are you really feeling?”
“I’m going to the grocery store, can I pick anything up for you?”
+ You are not wasting away here. God is inviting you to share in His cross, and in the work of redeeming the human race.
And a few caveats about these next couple of points… While some of these messages may be true, they can be hurtful if they are the first thing someone who is suffering hears from you. I prayerfully suggest letting someone know you see them, that you see they are suffering, and how hard things are for them — and offering to pray, and to help, before reminding them of these. They may not even need these as a reminder. But… here they are, still. I personally found these helpful when I was suffering the most:
+ There is meaning in your suffering. There is beauty in it. There is redemption in it. Give it to Him, so He can use it.
photo credit: donnierayjones