I don’t think we often know what to say when people pour their hearts out to us.
We, however, desperately want to say something — anything — to help them out. Something wise. Something worthwhile. Something that can really make a difference in their pain; discernment; anger; confusion; being lost.
But we don’t. We rarely do. Or maybe I should speak for myself at this point. I don’t. I rarely do.
However, what I’ve learned is that silence is okay. Sometimes, the best thing I can do for the person who is telling me their story is to just give them the freedom and space to do just that. Without condemnation and judgement from the listener. To truly offer space for them to explore their thoughts; feelings; situation; condition.
Quite a few of us, though, are uncomfortable with silence. Or very uncomfortable in feeling helpless.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard someone give that advice.
But what does it really mean?
When I was feeling lost or hurt or confused, when someone told me “Hey, Jesus is the solution” (and actually meant it), it left me even more confused. It didn’t really help me at all. What was I supposed to do with that information? How was that supposed to help me?Because it was obviously uttered so that it may help me. I’m not saying that Jesus is not the solution. I’m just saying that phrase isn’t really a solution to anything.
Nor is “you need to pray more.” Or “you just need to believe more.” Or “you need to have more faith.” With just those phrases alone, to me, I think they’re more cop out answers than helpful answers.
This reminds me of a joke:
Sunday School Teacher: Kids, we’re going to talk about love today. Do you know who loves you more than your parents?
Teacher: Good! And do you know who died for you because he loves you so much?
Teacher: Great! What a smart group of kids you are! Okay, now I’m thinking of something that loves its babies a lot. See if you can guess! It’s black and white. It swims. It eats fish. And it lives in the south pole!
Finally, one of the kids stands up and says, “Uhhh… I know the answer is supposed to be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a penguin to me.”
I didn’t say it was a funny joke.
I think what I’m trying to say is that we’re programmed to say “Jesus” to any and all solutions. Which is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong.
But, I think we’re too quick to offer Jesus as the solution without really offering anything else. We just leave at that, and think we’ve done enough. Basically, we’re too quick to offer an answer without really helping.
It’s like someone who wants to learn how to swim and ask you to teach them and you say, “Oh yea! You need a pool.” Annnnnnd end of lesson.
How’s that helpful?
Jesus is the answer, whilst completely true, may not be as helpful as one may think when someone is grieving over a tragic loss. In fact, that quip with the others I mentioned above, I think they can be more harmful than helpful.
The Christianese phrases that we throw around (often without thinking), I feel, allow us to become lazier. We just end up being like an automatic jukebox playing the top 20 hits of Christianese phrases. So we automatically throw out phrases without really listening to the person. Or walking with them on their journey. Or sharing in their pain.
“I know you’re hurting over the loss of your mother. But have more faith and it’ll all be okay.”
If anything, things like that make you, the listener, feel better about yourself because you feel like you helped. But to the hurting — I don’t know how helpful that can be. If it were me, I’d be more angry with you more than anything else. But that’s just me.
Our favorite Christianese phrases, at times, can be more harmful than helpful to people, who at the end of the day just might wanted you to listen to their struggles, more than anything else.