As children of God, one of our roles is to be peacemakers. We can be sources of healing, restoration, and reconciliation to others by sharing our faith and God’s love in practical ways.
What do you say to those who are hurting? Perhaps you know someone who has lost a job, experienced a miscarriage, has gotten divorced, moved away from family, or lost a loved one. What do you say? Sometimes we feel a loss of words when someone we love is going through something hard.
A few years ago shortly after the passing of my grandfather, I read a book called Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart. I wanted to be able to comfort my very special grandmother in this extremely hard time. More recently, with the unexpected passing of my father in law, the words in that book resonate with me in conversations with my husband and his family.
Do you remember the story of Job? Everything is taken from him and he feels like he has nothing left to live for. His friends didn’t help the situation as they offered bad advice and said things that minimized his pain.
And that is exactly it. In this book, the author describes how phrases like “God has a plan for everything,” “God’s will” and “God makes something good of everything” are not what a grieving person needs to hear. While yes, the bible does say these things, to the hurting person, this minimizes their pain.
How can you bring peace to others in time of hurt?
- Listen– Just listen. Hurting people need to release those emotions and having a helping ear can really be the best thing you can offer.
- Lose the fix it mentality– Some things cannot be fixed. When a loved one is lost, they can’t be brought back. You can’t fix death, and you can’t fix grief. What you can do is be there for that person. Pray for them and let God heal their hurting hearts.
- Pray for the right words– As I stated earlier, words that sound good can actually not be good at all. Ask God to give you the right words to say to the hurting person.
- Use the power of presence– Just be there. Sometimes there is no need to talk. Your presence itself can be a comfort. Just being present tells the hurting person that they are precious and loved.
- Let them cry on your shoulder and cry with them– Tears are cleansing and healing. It’s okay to cry with them and say “this sucks.” Emotional pain sucks. Instead of using words that try to rationalize what happen, it’s okay to admit that the hurt sucks.
- Validate their feelings- When a suffering person says “this hurts…I’m miserable…,” a simple “I know” can bring a source of comfort to the hurting person. Rather than trying to fix it or say “it could be worse,” the hurting find great comfort in knowing that their feelings have been heard.
- Never say “I know how you feel.“- Because you don’t. You know how you felt in a similar situation, but you can’t know how that person feels. You aren’t abandoning empathy here. There is a huge difference between saying “I know how you feel” vs “I was in a similar situation and I felt…”
- Avoid the “shoulds“- It may make sense to you that the suffering person “should” do something, but it is hard for a suffering person to just flip a switch and have a new attitude or take a specific action.
- Never say “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”– The worst part about this phrase is the “God won’t give you” part. God doesn’t cause the suffering. The fact that we live in a broken world is what causes the suffering. It also may make the suffering person question themselves, their faith, or make them feel like they are failing when the grief hurts so bad.
- Practical help– Prepare meals, watch their children, help them with household chores, run errands…ask them how you can help.
And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
There are so many awesome names to call our Father, and did you notice that they define His character? When we need advice or just to call out in prayer, He is our Counselor. When we need someone to lean on, He is our Mighty God. When we need a father, He is there to hold our hand. When we need some comfort, He is the Prince of Peace.
He is all these things ALL the time. Ask Him to infuse you with those characteristics when you are loving on a hurting person.
How do you love on the hurting?
Photo courtesy of Frame Angel from Freedigitalphotos.net
This is a part of a series. Here’s what you’ve missed!
Saying Goodbye to Unhealthy Fear
I just finished up a bible study by Paul Tripp called Women Helping Women. I highly recommend finding the video series. I was great! Helped us see how to relate to other women in times of trials. Great post BTW. 🙂
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Oh that sounds great! I will check it out!
A great post. Isn’t it a shame that so many people have to be told HOW to comfort someone in pain. We think it all comes naturally to us – but when faced with grief so many people avoid the situation or don’t know what to say.
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Bobbi Parish-Logie says
As a Mental Health Therapist I see hurting and grieving people all the time who lament about the things others say to them under the guise of consolation that instead turns out to be hurtful. Thank you so much for this list. It’s perfect! ~ Bobbi
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Thank you so much!
Such a well-written post! I so agree that all the cliché sayings are inappropriate and unnecessary. I think listening, the power of presence (I really like that one!) and practical help are huge. Also, checking up with the person later down the road when others may have forgotten is important.
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Yes, checking on them long after the incident is vital. It reassures them that they are loved and that whatever they went through has not been forgotten and that you are still there for them.
Very powerful post, thank you for sharing it. Grief is such a difficult emotion and unless you’ve been in the same situation, it’s impossible to empathize… I like your list because sometimes it’s hard to know what one should do to help. THanks!
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Thanks. 🙂 I am so glad you find it helpful!
Sheila R. says
Very great advice! I am always struggling with trying to find the right words to say when someone is hurting. I feel the need to ‘fix’ the situation and make them better. I guess I just need to be there and hear their pain and be the shoulder and support that they need, and not try to fix it! Thank you for this post, I have shared it across the social media board!
I think it is natural for us to want to “fix it” but we just can’t fix tragedy. Thank you so very much for sharing it!
What good advice! I have had my share of grief — and also been at a loss to comfort loved ones in their times of grief. I know there is nothing that makes me feel worse than the phrase “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle…” It just feels self-righteous and unsympathetic and I have had to sit on my hands when people said that to me in some tough times… so I will never say that to anyone else! Listening and being there have been the most comfort to me when I needed it… casseroles were also greatly appreciated.
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Those phrases just really don’t help anyone feel better. I too have experienced hearing those comments and they certainly do not validate the pain that you are going through. People mean well when they say it, but it just doesn’t help. Practical help like casseroles can help so very much. When my father in law passed away in December, people kept bringing us food and it was so nice to not have to think about cooking.
My grandmother passed away this past New Year’s eve, her birthday. I had time, space and prayers to mourn the (physical) loss. I know I will see her again one day. My sweet husband gave me the space and comfort. I so appreciated it.
When someone is hurting, I listen. I give them space and options. I let them know I am there anytime, and that if they want to get out of the house for a cup of coffee call me (anytime). I appreciate your suggestion not to tell someone that God won’t give them more than they can handle. That has never been comforting to me, or I suppose anyone else.
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I am so sorry for your loss. Prayers for your sweet family.
This is a very encouraging and useful post. My favorite two points you had were validating the person by saying “I know” and by offering practical help. I especially think practical help is helpful when what is needed is observed and taken care of without having to ask the grieving person what is needed.
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Practical help is amazing. Taking dinners, helping clean the house or any watching kiddos can help so much. Even helping with little things can make such a difference.
One way that I can love the hurting is just being there. Listening is a biggie. Most times I admit, I may try to fix it or feel like I should have something to say. Sometimes you just have to be quiet.
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Being quiet and just being there are some of the best things you can do for the hurting.
Alice Barton says
everyone likes to talk, many people seem to forget how important it is to sit down and listen. Really nice post. thanks for sharing! 🙂
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Thank you 🙂
Lindsey Whitney says
Super great post. Good choice for the comment event. The power of presence is so real and also practical help. Meals are such a blessing a week or two after the big event when the hub-bub has died down and you’re left alone with your sorrow… just that simple act of “someone cares” can be such an uplifting thing. Thanks for sharing!
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Thank you so much. Yes, it is so important to continue to love on them grieving after the craziness has died down.
Great tips! I often avoid situations like this because I really feel for the person hurting and don’t know what to say to bring them comfort. It must be part of that wanting to “fix it” mentality you mention. But looks like sometimes the best way to help are the simplest, like simply being present, showing you care and listening.
Yes it can make all the difference in the world. Even saying to the person “I don’t know what to say, but I love you so I am here” can make all the difference in the world.
Great post! I would add that saying “It was God’s will” and “they’re in a better place” are also bad phrases to say. Your ‘do say’ phrases are great and your post is wonderful.
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Those phrases certainly don’t help either!
Emily @ Love, pasta and a Tool belt says
What a great post. Listening is so helpful when someone is hurting!
Yona Williams says
Very good advice! I think there are times we all face where we have to be reminded of these tips…it can be so easy to want to fix things, or think it’s better that people don’t express their sadness or grief in their own way. I make sure that I am a good listener…I find that its much better than giving advice. Some people just want to vent or release their feelings. I’ve always been a kind of peacemaker in my family. Funny thing is…my name happens to mean ‘dove’ in Hebrew..the bird of…peace!
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Your name is beautiful! And that is really cool that it means dove. 🙂
Such a beautiful post! It really helps to be reminded of these ways in which we can truly be there for those that are hurting. In times of sorrow, it is so easy to want to fix things but your post reminds me that just being present and just listening can be the best ways to help those we love.
Just being there and listening can really, really help those who are suffering.
Jennifer S. says
This was so well said. As a pastor’s wife I have many times had to sit with some woman who was grieving something. I try to pray more than speak, to just be there, listen if they want to talk, cry with them, give a hug. We want to fix the hurt, but so many times there is nothing we can really do except to say, “I’m here for you.” Doing errands, fixing a meal, cleaning the house and laundry are great ideas if you really want to do something physical to help. But I think a lot of times people just want to know that someone cares, that someone is willing to sit with them and listen to whatever from their grief takes.
Jennifer S. recently posted…Is My Baby Malnourished?
You are so right. People just want to know they are loved and not alone, especially through the hard times.
Quarter Life Cents says
This is a great post. I find it really difficult to approach someone when they are hurting. I feel like I am never saying the right thing. Great advice for people who find themselves in the same situation.
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I’m glad you found this post helpful. Just remember to be there for that person and just listen. That means so much to the hurting!
This is such a timely post, Stephanie! I am the Co-Coordinator of our local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, and one of our members recently lost her six-year old son quite unexpectedly, much to the devastation of us all. And your tips are spot on- just being there and validating their feelings are some of the best ways you can help. I personally can’t stand that phrase “God won’t give you anything….” because there is really no Scripture that says that. It is GOD’s strength that endures all things, not our own. Thanks for sharing.
Oh my goodness. I can’t imagine that kind of loss 🙁 Praying for that sweet family.
What a great post! I personally get so annoyed by all the “God has a plan!” “It will all be okay!” trite sayings that Christian like to spout off. While I do believe they are true, they are so, so unhelpful. Thanks for sharing.
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There are definitely phrases that I think people say to mean well (like the two you mentioned), but all it does is either make the grieving feel guilty (because they don’t feel like it can ever be okay). I also believe that God has a plan and that time will heal the grief, but those phrases certainly don’t validate the greiving’s feelings.
Tanya @ sevenspringshomestead.com says
This is a great post. I know I often feel uncomfortable in these types of situations. I tend to be a fix it type person, so knowing I can just be there to listen really helps.
Thanks for sharing.
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Thanks so much. 🙂
Very well put! to be honest this post balances religion and practicalities so very well. I like the part about Don’t say “I know how you feel” .. its true because nobody does.
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We can never know exactly how someone feels. We can relate to them, but we can never feel what they feel, because we are each our own person. That’s why that phrase just doesn’t work at all!
This is wonderful. I am sharing this with my facebook fans. more people need to read this.
We Three Crabs
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Thank you so much for sharing it!!
andrea k says
As someone who has experience deep loss, I agree with so much of what you said. Just being there for someone can make a world of difference in their life. Thank you for your post. It was wonderful!
Thank you so much !
Dawn @ Reveal Natural Health says
This is great advice. One short phrase that really stuck out to me was “you can’t fix grief.”
Dawn @ Reveal Natural Health recently posted…Work at Home Moms: Itâs Ok to Put Child in Daycare
As much as I wish we could, we just can’t. 🙁
Thanks for reminding me of the encouragement those around me need. There are so many in my life right now hurting from loss. I often share with my friends that there are really no words that I can say to help, but I can pray and I know that God will give them comfort far better than I can.
Telling them that means so much!! You are doing a great thing by loving on them that way.
Diana Marie says
I’ve been through a lot myself, but do sometimes feel at a lost for words when a friend is grieving. I always want to fix things, but sometimes that is impossible. Just being there is always the most important thing one can do. Thank you for sharing this post.
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I feel like it’s okay to tell those who are hurting “I don’t know what to say. I am at a loss of words. But I love you and I am here.” That means so much!
I often pray for the right words! It’s so hard to know what to say in some situations, and I pray for God to give me the words my friends need to hear.
Me too!! I pray for the right words too!!
Marysia @ My Travel Affairs says
Loose the ‘fix it mentality’ is the most important yet the most difficult thing for all of us to do! At least for me. I’m a kind of ‘lets solve this problem’ person and it took me a while to learn that!
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It is really hard to do, I agree.
Angie Astry says
This post really hits home for me having gone through many years of infertility, IVF and a miscarriage. Thank you so much for writing this. I wish more people would read posts like this!
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I’m sorry you had to experience that 🙁 I popped over to your blog and saw the pic of your little guy. He is adorable!! Thank you for visiting!
Lisa D.B. Taylor says
Beautifully said. The best thing you can do for the hurting is to simply be there, and listen. And that’s hard because so many of us feel we need to “fix things” – and so many things simply aren’t fixable, but can be bearable in time.
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It’s our instinct to want to “fix” everything, but you are right, just simply being there can bring alot of comfort to those who are hurting.
Definitely agree with you. Times when I have been down for whatever reason, I think anything anyone would have said wouldn’t have been the right thing to say. When you’re in that place, no words can fix how you feel. You have to work through it in your own time.
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Grieving is definitely a personal journey that we all have to work through in our own time.
There are so many people in the world that have no empathy that’s why they just try and give advice instead of listening. When people are hurting, they just need someone to talk to that’s safe. They don’t need a quick fix. Great post.
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That’s a great word to use to describe this. “Safe.” Someone who will listen, validate their feelings and just be there with the hurting.
Margarita @ West Coast Mama says
this is a very helpful read. I think we all know people who are hurting and we can always stand to be more helpful. i agree, listening and validating is something i always try to do, i think it’s very important to reassure people that their feelings are true and not to just sweep them under the rug.
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There is so much pain in the world. We all know someone who is hurting.
Sarah Arrow says
I love this advice. It takes away the “means well” aspect and treats the person as an individual and doesn’t blame God or Jesus for the person’s feelings. Thanks for sharing it with us.
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You are so welcome 🙂
What love and encouragement you wrote this with. I remember when I lost my mom in college, my aunt in 9/11, and my grandfather right before that. People wanted to say the right thing but found themselves saying things that really didn’t help my grieving heart. In those moments, I learned that sometimes the best thing is to say nothing but there to love and support the person. I appreciate the steps of comfort that you shared in this much needed article. Praying for your sweet husband during this season. Bless you.
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I’m so sorry you have experienced such loss. 🙁 Thank you so much for the sweet prayers for our family.
Michell @Prowess and Pearls says
Absolutely loved everything about this post Stephanie!! Especially about being practical. When people are hurting, they’re not going to ask you if you can offer assistance, so it’s best to just do it, knowing that more than likely they’ll need it. I also liked the fact that you touched on the “jargon” that religious people use. Jesus said the enemy came to steal, kill and destroy, but He came that we may have life and that MORE abundantly(filled til it overflows)! Thanks so much for sharing…visiting from LOBS. Have a blessed week!
Michell @Prowess and Pearls
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Thank you so much for the kind words about this post! It is encouraging to me to hear comments like this! Thank you!
A very close friend just lost her husband and I’m at a loss for what to say. Thanks for posting this. It was some helpful reminders of what NOT to do. It’s hard when you can’t be there in person. It’s hard to know what to say over the phone. 🙁
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I pray that this post has helped you. And I pray for comfort for your sweet friend.
Stephanie (Glam Slam!) says
Very powerful Stephanie and wise, wise words! 🙂
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Thank you 🙂
celeste j says
I loved your post. I just loved when someone shared a memory of my daughter especially when it was something that I didn’t remember about her.
Yes, those moments are precious. Reminiscing is so good and healing.
Sarah Thomas says
One of the greatest gifts we can give the hurting is prayer and a listening ear. Oftentimes our feelings of helplessness and want to “do something” can bring unnecessary damage. In many instances our presence is the calming salve the individual requires. I believe that’s the most difficult lesson we have to learn as Christ followers. Serving doesn’t always mean “doing something.” Sometimes being there is all He requires.
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“Serving doesn’t always mean “doing something.” Sometimes being there is all He requires.”
Exactly. Beautifully said 🙂
When I lost my dad, I heard all kinds of comments from fellow, well-meaning Christians that really invalidated my feelings and made it very hard for me. I struggled a great deal–and I wish I could’ve sent those people to this post. Each of us processes grief so differently, and though I am absolutely grateful for the time I had with my dad–I still feel it was way too short (I was pregnant with my first child–and his first grandchild when he died). I would give anything for my daughters to meet him–oh, he would adore them!
Thank you for sharing this post!
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Goodness. That absolutely is to short. I’m so sorry. You are absolutely right that we all grieve in our own way, and when we are loving on the hurting, it’s so important to be sensitive to that.
Savvy Working Gal says
I usually just listen and say I’m so sorry for your loss as many times as needed. A couple in my neighborhood whose son was paralyzed after a freak sport injury wrote a post about this once. He said everyone wants to save the world, but no one wants to help mom with the dishes. He recommended calling and asking if they need anything. And not just after the accident, but throughout the year as well. Everyone wants to help in the beginning, but six months later families may still need assistance.
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You are so right that the assistance shouldn’t stop. I don’t live close to my family and my Grandpa passed away 2 years ago. To this day, my mom and my aunt still go over to check on my grandmother every couple days, helping her with household things, and they take turns spending the night with her a couple times a week because we love her so much and to break up the week. I soooo wish I lived closer so I could do that too! When we do visit, we always stay a couple nights and spend as much time as possible with her. She is precious!
I also have a tendency to want to fix things, say the right things, make it all better. But I learned through the death of my youngest son, that the best ways a person can offer peace is to just be there – often times in total silence. The most comforting for me were the people who basically expressed-“only you know what you are going through and how this feels, and I’ll give you space to process this in whatever way works for you” without offering suggestions. It’s a personal journey – the grief journey- and though well meaning, it’s best not to say “God won’t give you more than you can handle” or “If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it” etc… because even if you believe it’s true in your heart – those clichés really don’t help at all. I’m glad that you acknowledged that. You can be a person of very deep faith and still be insulted by having such things said to you. Having said that, everything on your list is very solid, sound advice, and you did a great job with it. That’s not easy to do for topics so delicate!
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I am so so sorry for your loss. I am so thankful that you have loving people surrounding you that are there for you on your grief journey. Prayers and hugs.
Sandy Sandmeyer says
Sometimes all we need to do it just be there; words aren’t even necessary. I’ve been trying to encourage a friend who lost his father this week. His mom died many years ago. He has a relationship with the Lord, but is still very discouraged. I’m going to take these suggestions to continue to support him.
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I pray that these suggestions help both you and your friend.
Great lessons! I too, struggle to comfort a person suffering a loss. I will remember to validate their feelings and just listen. Thanks 🙂 #SITSBlogging
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You are so welcome. 🙂
Shaunna @Tempting Thyme says
This is a hard one for me, as I am one who wants to fix things, plus I never know what to say. Bottom line, just let them know you are there, whatever is needed, hold there hand or let them cry. Sometimes, not knowing what to do keeps people away and that can be the worst as it leads the person who is suffering the impression that they don’t care about them. It is a fine line, but true friends will just get in there and ‘be’. Shaunna
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Helping those that are hurting is such a delicate process. Just being there though can speak volumes.
Grief can be something so difficult to comprehend and cope with. Most times people do resort to the “fix it” method because they don’t know what else to do. It’s easier to feel like you’re doing something for someone when you’re actually trying to fix it. But listening, and sympathizing or empathizing are the most valuable things you can do for a loved one going through a difficult time. Great points. Fantastic blog post. So happy I found you and this post through #SITSblogging.
I think that is our first instinct. We want to fix it. But as you said, listening and sympathizing are the best things we can do for the hurting.
great blog! glad i found you. #SITSBlogging
Thanks for visiting 🙂
Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout says
Practical help — yes definitely! Rather than saying those trite phrases that you wisely advise people to avoid, sometimes I think it is helpful to just meet people where they are, and give voice to their hurt. It’s a bit crass, but “That sucks” is a lot more comforting to hear than “You can handle it” when you are hurting.
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Yes, exactly. Hurting people want their feelings to be validated and just simply saying “this sucks” helps to do just that. That gives them a great source of comfort.
This is a thoughtful post. I get so leery trying to comfort someone because you just never know what is right or wrong. 🙁
I’m here today from #SITSBlogging
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I understand. It’s not a very comfortable situation. Being there for the hurting with just a listening ear, practical help or just a hug can really do alot for a hurting person.
roni faida says
Just letting them know I am here for them, to give them whatever they need. Fulfilling a need when I see it (going grocery shopping for them, bringing them food, buying something for the kids) and just being a good friend. #SITSBlogging
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Shana Norris says
I really love this post. You’re right about some of those phrases that can be so tempting to utter when others are in pain. They can seem trite and cliche. I’ve been trying to just be there, to sit with someone in their pain and darkness and doubt, to just listen and to truly hear them.
I recently read a parenting book that applies this principle to our children. I have a 3rd grade daughter and I’m trying to do this when she’s relating 3rd grade drama. It’s tempting to minimize it because, let’s be honest, some of it is pure silliness from an adult’s perspective. But to her, it’s real and it’s big and it’s painful.
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What book is it? Would you mind sharing? I think that would be a great read!
Chris Carter says
LOVE this post!!! The message is so perfect and I love your faith-filled advice. All beautiful truths you share, my friend!! I need to go back and read all the posts in this series!!!
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Stephanie Pitcher Fishman says
The “fix it” mentality is a hard one for me. I just want to always make it better (which I can’t.) It’s hard to remember that sometimes we just need to be there and be love. This is a great post. Thanks for sharing!
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