Monday, September 17, 2012

Ten Sinful Things we Say to a Suffering Person 3.

President Bush silently hugs girl who lost her dad in 911

This series has been a blast and we have a lot of people waiting in line to see if they are sinning  when they try to help people in pain. Another Person raised a good question about the goal of responding to the comments of a suffering friend, family member or church member. Let me try to clarify the context of my thoughts.

Suffering and pain are universal, common and daily. We interact regularly with people who are ill, emotionally distressed from stress, grief, trauma and childhood neglect. As we meet and interact with them, these issue arise and we have an opportunity to respond to the Speaker. When we hear the person share his/her distress, what would be the ordinary goal of a friend?

I hope my readers will write and suggest their insights. Jeff baker, Ph. D.  made this comment. My objective is to establish a thorough connection with the suffering person to their satisfaction. Empathy is a part of that but is not complete by itself. One must comprehend their narrative, establish a working metaphor of their situation, identify what they really want to happen, and lastly explore what was important to them that was lost or taken as a result of the injury. One can not over use empathy. But one can reinforce hopeless or helplessness by only using empathy. Empathy and connection builds the pathway for me to challenge people in sometimes very direct ways.

It is sinful to add inappropriately to the Speaker's suffering. It is a sin to speak in ways that do not edify the Speaker. It is a sin to say things that of the flesh not the Spirit. Responses that are from the Spirit are filled with the items mentioned in Galatians 5: Love, joy, patience, kindness, peace, etc. With these ideas in mind, let us proceed.

It is a sin to react with cliches to people who have lost a loved one.I have heard this one stated by well meaning but thoughtless people and even a Minister.

God took your child or mother or sibling because he needed another beautiful flower for His garden".  So, I can conclude that God killed my loved one just to get a flower in His cosmic garden? How callous and painful is that? It leaves the person in pain with no where to go with his/her grief. Plus, this kind of statement is putting ideas into the will and thought of God with no basis in scripture or rational thought.

Do not try to fill in the blanks with your own shallow ideas about why a person dies. Stop talking and start listening. Do not fill the silence with your shallow theology. It is not our job to try to explain the mysteries of life, death, God's will and evil at the time of greatest pain in a person's life.

Silence is golden. Let your words be few. (See ECC 7:15-22)

Gary Sweeten
Books on ministering love

1 comment:

Dan Perrin said...

When our baby died, 33 years ago, I heard some of the most stupid and hurtful comments from well meaning people. The most meaningful was from a man 40 years my senior who simply hugged me and in tears said, I understand. We lost a son too. That connection brought healing and hope. My eyes are filled with tears just remembering that well placed hug. Thanks Gary for a very helpful blog. I miss you, my friend. Dan Perrin