Sunday, March 01, 2015
It's not the words we say (or Dealing with other people's sadness)
There are many different problems and causes for sadness. We grieve someone moving away, the loss of a job, and so much more. And others can sometimes help us on that path. Or they can strew rubble on it.
I'm still not an expert in dealing with other people's grief, even though I've had two sons with sudden vision loss; even though I've lost a son; even though I've lost six people close to me within four years. But what I've learned is that we don't have to be experts. We don't have to think of the perfect words to say, because there are no perfect words to say.
"I'm sorry" and "I will pray" are probably the words that have helped me most, but most of all people just 'being there'.
But if we feel words are important, if you want to use your words, let's consider this as a cardinal rule before we speak: Avoid Judgment.
"Of course!" someone sputters. "Who would judge, when someone has a loss?"
Ah, but it is not so clear as all that. There are so many different ways to make someone feel judged without even stopping to think about how it's going to come across. I wish I could give examples from things people have said to me, but there are people for whom hearing some of those comments might only add to their suffering.
So here's the thing: Most statements, by their very nature, that try to answer "why" questions feel like judgment. The people who grieve, whether grieving a death or any kind of loss, are going to have to make their own peace on their own timetable. Let's not make it harder by throwing our "guesses" into the mix.
Let's remember that most often only God has full knowledge of any "why's". And in saying that, I'm saying he is all-knowing, but I'm not saying that God wanted a bad thing to happen. Jesus said, "What you do to the least of mine, you do to me," and he cured people of disease. Mary and Joseph lost Jesus, coming home from the temple. Jesus was nailed to a cross. So let's not try to place blame.
I know, I know. Most of my readers would not place blame. But I know I have unintentionally said hurtful things at times in my life. It's so easy, because it's so subtle sometimes.
Let's just try to carefully remove anything that might be perceived as judgment of any kind before we speak. And if we find that we have failed, we can say the same thing we might have said in the first place, "I'm sorry." Because, most probably, we meant well.
And if you wonder why I brought this up tonight, there's another mystery for you. Actually, though, I came across an article about the invalidity of the "prosperity gospel" (that if we just do the right things, everything will go our way), and I wanted to share about that topic myself. And it took the path I know, or at least one of the paths I know.
But you know - we all know when we stop to think about it - that God is not a vending machine where you put in your quarters of prayer and good works, and you get out an equivalent amount of earthly happiness. God allows (and "God allows" is not necessarily the same as "God wanted", which I believe we can't know). But God allows us to experience the heavy sufferings of this earth, just as he did his Son, and the saints.
But he is there for us, always; he is listening to us, and comforting us. He often gives us peace and joy in the midst of suffering. And sometimes he gives us human angels to be there for us along the way. "Lord, help me to be that to those I love, and those you send to me."