Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18-19)
As some of you know, my family is getting hit pretty hard with health issues currently. And friends want to comfort us with words of … of wisdom and encouragement? I know they mean well. However, they would do better if they’d remember the adage my mother hammered into my head—if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
Here’s the thing:
When disaster strikes, whether it comes through sicknesses, finances, or relationships, we all have stories to tell. Either we’ve experienced the crisis first hand, or we know someone who has. And we’re eager to relate to a person in crisis. Or are we simply eager to retell our story.
Before Gene began his radiation treatments, co-workers told him how draining radiation is; how miserable he would feel; how he’d miss work and not be able to mow his own yard. It was depressing to say the least. He came home from work more than once in a gloomy mood and said, “Why can’t anyone say something encouraging?”
When I was diagnosed with melanoma, people said things like:
“I know someone who has that. Every time she goes back, the doctor cuts her. She has scars all over her body.”
“I know someone who was diagnosed with melanoma and died within 4 months.”
“Melanoma? Oh my, people die from that.”
People mean well.
I know that. But we “put our mouths in motion before we put our minds in gear.” We want to make a connection. We want to verify we’ve been there too. We want to qualify ourselves to speak with empathy. I get it. But, can’t we do all that while speaking words of life?
Can’t we say something uplifting like:
“I’m sorry you’re facing this. I’ve gone through that. It’s not an easy road, but look at me. I’m okay now. God strengthened me and carried me through that trial. He’ll do the same for you.”
Do we have to spew out gruesome details?
The details grab and stab our victims … our friends.
The comments Gene and I have endured recently have taught me to think about how to relate to others by relaying my story. Are my words encouraging and life breathing? Or, are they discouraging and destructive? Can I tell my story without gruesome details and leave my friend with hope, comfort, and peace?
If not, I best heed my mother’s words and say nothing at all.
How about you? What story can you tell that breathes life into someone in crisis?
See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks