Helping The Hurting: Pitfalls to Avoid and Things To Do
Pitfalls to Avoid
- Do not be brash, quick, or loud...for example, no bulls in the China shop
- Do not offer cheap theological platitudes or come in with “answers” or “advice." For example, don’t say things like, “they are no longer in pain, think about the happy times."
- Avoid making assumptions. Don’t assume how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking, don’t assume what has happened, etc
- Do not talk much, don’t start telling “your story” or talking about that “one time when you or your family member had such and such happen to them”... Zip it and stand there and just be with them...
- But don’t be awkward, be natural
- Don’t make it about you, which is very, very easy to do by the way
- Don’t say dumb unhelpful things or ask dumb unhelpful questions... like
“It could be worse.”
“I know exactly how you feel.”
“You believe God is in control, don’t you?”
“Well, good thing God is sovereign, right?”
- Don’t be critical or judge the person’s response to the situation, let them respond
- Don’t correct bad theology, this is not the time
- Don’t minimize their situation or pain, which is very, very easy to do by the way
- Don’t try and make light of the situation by some cheap stab at humor
- Don’t overstay your welcome - Don’t smother them
Things To Do
- Embody the love of Jesus - show up
- Enter their world carefully
- Move and speak slowly, unrushed; Be quick to listen, slow to speak
Be tender, confident, quiet, wise, careful, hopeful, patient, empathetic
- Use a compassionate smile
- Tell them you love them and there’s no place you’d rather be
- Tell them you’ve been praying for them and will continue to do so
- Tell them you’re sorry for what they are experiencing
- Tell them they are not alone... “The Lord is with you in this...even now...”
- Affirm your willingness to serve them however you can (but don’t over promise)
- Look for practical ways to serve them: a cup of water or coffee? warm blanket? get the nurse? bring them food? mow their lawn? send card or flowers?
- Affirm truth and good theology when you hear it - “That’s good, right on, amen”
- Offer to pray with them or for them before you leave; Make it a short, simple prayer
- A word on humor. Humor is tricky. There are appropriate and inappropriate times and ways to “be funny” or provide a laugh. Done well, in tune with the moment and the person, it can be incredibly helpful and healing. Done poorly, it can create awkward moments for everyone and be less than helpful. When in doubt, don’t. Use discretion.