Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Being There For Hurting People

Recently, I put a quote from one of my graduate school/seminary teachers, Larry Crabb, on my Facebook page and got quite a response. The quote was simply this, "People are hurting more deeply than we know." Lots of people apparently resonated with that thought. What prompted me to think of that yesterday? Running into more hurting people through what I do as a pastor and counselor.

But what's interesting is that you don't always know that others are troubled. In fact, most of the time you don't. Some of the most together people we know, however, are dying on the inside. Their marriage is a wreck, they feel like a failure, they have an illness that could be terminal, their kids are struggling, they just lost their job, they feel like God has left them, they're exhausted and discouraged or a thousand other things.

Why don't people typically open up, even to their spouse, their parents or close friends? One reason is fear. Fear that others will look at them less favorably, fear of appearing weak, fear of not having it all together.

A second reason is probably time. We're so busy and there is so little margin in our worlds, that we often don't have time to share our story or listen to another's so we simply keep things light and move right past one another.

A third reason is likely past experiences. When we've told someone else we're hurting, we may have gotten a trite, "Yeah, I know what you mean," or been given an easy answer or gotten the impression that somehow if we just trusted God more we wouldn't be struggling. Sometimes people don't keep your story confidential and others who didn't need to know found out.

So we have to assume that people around us, even closest to us, probably have struggles, even deep pain, but won't just come out and tell us. And I know we can't solve everyone's problems but we can listen to someone today who needs to tell their story. I don't even know how that will always happen but I have a couple of suggestions for those of you who don't have people walk into their office and just open up (and I don't either by the way, at least a lot of the time).

First, pray for someone to encourage today and then have your eyes open. You never know who it will be or where they will show up. Second, listen for when a person may want to tell you more. Sometimes your merely saying, "Wow, sounds like this is a tough time for you," can open the door for a longer conversation. If not, don't push it.

Third, start by having your radar on for those closest to you. Ask yourself, "Does my spouse or do my kids know that I'm available and that I care about their hurts too? Do I make myself available and do I talk about things that really matter or hurt me? Have I sent the message that it's OK to not have life all together? When they do talk about hard things how do I respond?"

Yes, people are hurting more deeply than we know. And if you're the one doing the hurting, then ask God to bring a great listener and encourager into your world too. In the meantime, be that to someone else. It could change how you see your world today.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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