how to help someone who is hurting…

11811520_1050918934939091_3566199109181994073_nHelping someone through suffering can be as simple as saying, “Hey I see your pain, and I am not afraid.”

But so often we are afraid. And it makes me think of the bully stay away agreement we do in elementary schools. Someone is being harmful to someone else, so naturally, if we can get them to stay away from each other, the hurting will stop. But we do that when we see another person’s burden.

It looks harmful. It looks scary. So we decide to enlist a stay away agreement and keep our distance until they at least appear better. Because if we go to them in that moment, we might have to feel their hurt too, and that is something we are afraid of. Desperately afraid of.

And what if we don’t know what to say? What if we go to them in that moment, have a panic attack, and just go completely blank? Maybe we could cause more harm than good?

And it’s under these suppositions that we leave hurting people balled up in the fetal position and feeling desperately and completely alone. And it’s not right. But fear bullies us into these positions and we run away – afraid.

My wise friend Brene Brown puts it this way, “Rarely can a response make something better.”

And she’s right.

Even if we are as eloquent as Shakespeare or as wise as a Bible Prophet, there is rarely something we can say when people are in pain that will help them shake it off and feel better. Because they are not ready to move on. What they need is someone to get down in the garbage can with them. And if you don’t know what to say, Brene Brown nails it again…you can say, “I don’t even know what to say right now, but I am just so glad you told me.”

And isn’t that what Jesus did?

He made the choice to see our suffering.

It was ugly, and it was weak, and it was dirty, and it was everything we can imagine as a social outcast that no one wants to approach or talk to, and He said – I’ll take that. I’ll take the very worst parts of you. I’ll meet you there. I’ll even take it on myself…because I am not afraid.

And because He is God, He can take it one step farther – He heals us.

He may not remove our suffering in that moment. But He heals by walking with us, giving us hope that does not fail, and never ever leaving our side. He takes the burden of our sin, and promises I will never ever hurt you, even when the choices you make deeply hurt me.

And so obviously we cannot be Jesus, but at the same time, we must choose to see.

People hurt people. Pain is just pain. And sometimes we need to be held in the midst of it all, and know we are not alone.



  1. Beth Spaul says

    I enjoyed reading your most recent article. I am guessing it is for today August the 10th. I must confess that there were several times in my childhood when I said mean words to someone. Most of the time I was shy and would witness fights without feeling confident enough to go get a teacher or encourage the ones involved to use their words only.

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