What our friends need most from us…

Day 27 of 31 Days of Connecting

I fully intend to listen well. To be a good friend as my friends have been to me. To support them as they have supported me. And yet, I find myself doing it again. Focusing on me.

While she shares her struggles feeding her baby boy, I’m trying to think of ways to fix him as I “fixed” my sons (sort of ignoring the reality that her struggles with reflux, allergies, and other traumas are nothing like mine).

While she shares her problems with her marriages, I find myself comparing her relationship with her husband to my relationship with mine. And instead of listening, or letting her know I was listening, I am now rattling off my own story.

Or, while she is sharing a triumph, a milestone with her kid, I find myself feeling defensive and as if I am failing in some way because my sons didn’t walk until they were 19 months old, didn’t talk until they were 2 years old and are generally clumsy with the gross motor skills.

And the worst yet, is that while she is crying over her struggles, her pain, her need, I find myself uncomfortable with her circumstances and instead of sitting down and mourning with her, I am emotionally distant, offering my well-meaning-yet-missing-the-point-entirely advice, followed by an emotionally empty truism.

The unfortunate thing is that we think that when we’re doing these things we are empathizing. Unfortunately, the reality is, we are not focused on the other person or caring for their needs at all, but are thinking of our own. We are uncomfortable in their pain and while we think we are trying to make them feel better, we are actually trying to make ourselves feel better.

What our friends need from us is not to hear how our circumstances were worse or better. They often don’t even want advice – (a safe rule is don’t give it unless asked). What our friends need most is for us to get down with them, offer a shoulder to cry on, and to be with them.

What our friends need most from us is us.

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And that is what makes all of the difference. When we do this for one another, suddenly we are not so alone. Suddenly, our circumstances seem manageable. Suddenly, we are validated in our needs, our feelings, our very selves.

The next time I am with a friend, I will try again. I will shut my mouth and let her talk. I will put myself in her shoes and allow myself to feel her pain. I won’t try to make myself feel better by trying to fix her situation, or minimizing it, or allowing myself to feel like a failure. I will just be with her.

As she has been there for me.

Day 27

 

31 days of connecting

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Let Them Tell You (Or Rather, Start Listening)

Every Friday, Kate Motaung and writers across the web join Five Minute Friday for five minutes of writing on the word of her choice. There are no major edits, no second guesses, just five minutes to write. I join to grow as a writer. Here is this week’s Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt: Tell.

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Has anyone ever told you something and it made you uncomfortable? Perhaps they started crying. Or maybe you started crying. The information was so atrocious. So horrible. So… difficult to swallow and you just wanted them to stop. Maybe they saw your discomfort and they did.

Let them tell you.

We have to start telling one another the truth about our lives. It’s when we don’t tell hat the internal destruction begins to occur. When we don’t tell the truth, we strive to cover up ourselves and begin to tell lies. We pretend our home is picture perfect and spend all of our energy striving to make it that way, when in reality we are dying inside from the truth.

I do it, too.

But when we tell the truth, the lie no longer has power over us. When we tell the truth and allow others to tell the ghastly, uncomfortable truth, then hope and healing can begin to take place, whatever that may look like.

Let them tell the truth.

Let them tell you they are depressed.

Let them tell you they feel like a bad mother.

Let them tell you their husband doesn’t love them.

Let them tell you their children have disabilities.

Let them tell you they hate themselves.

Let them tell you they harm themselves.

Let them tell you they or their spouse views porn.

Let them tell you they are ashamed.

Don’t dismiss it. Don’t try to make the bad feelings go away. Let them tell you.

And then tell them the truth.

They are loved.

They are cherished.

They are children of the God Most High.

They can seek healing. Healing is possible with God.

Others will help them.

Addiction does not have to win.

Depression does not have to win.

Hate does not have to win.

Let them tell you.

Note: I love Five Minute Friday, because it gets my writing juices going. But sometimes it is just not enough. I would have said so much more than just these words in Five Minutes. Please engage me!
What do you think? Why is it so hard to let people speak their hurts and struggles? Why do we feel we need to either comfort them with truisms or change the subject or immediately jump to ourselves?