This blog post is the product of asking people who have gone through hard things a lot of questions. It is also the result of examining myself and making a lot of mistakes with people who have and are going through hard things. Honestly I’m probably going to do these things again because I’m an imperfect person in process by the grace of God. The list isn’t exhaustive and by no means perfect. But, I share these things in hope that we can continue to learn how to love people during their times of suffering.
1. Don’t ask a lot of questions. Remember its not about you and what you need to know its about what they are going through. Good questions are: how are you feeling, what can I do to help, do you need anything, does your family need anything, do you need some one to talk to, what is the most useful thing I could do for you right now, how can I pray for you and finally am I totally annoying you if so I’ll bounce right now?
2. Don’t convert their situation into an opportunity for you to be self absorbed and helped through your drama. Ask yourself 5 minutes into a conversation with people going through tragedy are we talking about them or me?
3. Don’t assume you know everything they are going through. Two of the most complex things in life are the soul and suffering. Be patient and everything you need to know will come out.
4. Don’t under estimate the power of presence. Sometimes being there is the best thing you can do. Also don’t assume someone else is going to show up and be present with those suffering. They probably wont so you should.
5. Don’t say why didn’t you tell me? That is another self absorbed ill timed question. Also when people go through tragedy they are thinking about getting out and through it first, not you knowing. And honestly do you really want to know the answer to that question? Really?
6. Don’t try to figure it all out through texting. If you were born before 1995 you suck at texting so don’t go there. Pick up the phone and call them. If they don’t pick up don’t be selfish and hang up, leave a message like we use to do 20 years ago. Better yet, get in your car or on a plane and show up like God does and love on them.
7. Don’t try to be sarcastic and funny to ease the pain of the tragedy. I know you think that laughter will make things better but it probably won’t. Farts are funny until you smell them. Funny comments might be funny at first but during tragedy they often end up coming off as insensitive. Also, you probably aren’t as funny as you think you are, if you were you would be a comedian making big bucks in Vegas. Sobriety goes a long way and is far more helpful than levity.
Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.