Monday, October 5, 2015

Adults Say the Darndest Things

Isn't that so true?!

Too often we open our mouths in order to insert our foot. It's a classic two step process.

Mr. Hippie was on a roll earlier this week. Thankfully he has broken his losing streak. His first comment was somewhere along the lines of, "wow! You are really grey!" Yeah, thanks for that. This was topped by his prayer on Monday morning, "Help Bernadette have time for the necessary things, like getting an eyebrow wax." Hmmm. Looking a bit caterpillar like, am I? Well, thanks for noticing that too.

Hmmph....I am pretty sure I can guess where a certain 4 year old gets her wit from...

We sure can put our foot in it over trivial things like grey hairs and eyebrows.

We can also say really stupid things when it really matters.

Like when people are vulnerably sharing their heart.  Or are grieving a loss. Or are facing trials of chronic illness or cancer, or any other tangible or intangible trial.

Sometimes we say stupid things like

God won't give you anything more than you can handle. 


I couldn't go through that ______. 

Frankly, both are patently untrue. God gives us more than we can handle all the time. It's so that we will lean on Him, and His glory will shine through our brokenness. And, generally, we all manage to deal somehow with the deck we're dealt. All the circumstances may not be ones we'd have chosen for ourselves, but we have to survive, so we keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Sometimes we are trying to comfort, and say, me too, but it comes out instead as all about me.

Sometimes we are trying to find common ground, but it comes off as minimizing someone else's loss, trial, suffering, or grief.

Sometimes when we see someone going through a hard time, we say nothing at all, because we are afraid of putting our foot in our mouth. Sometimes we say nothing at all because we've gotten our head bitten off in the past for inadvertently saying the wrong thing. Nothing at all is not the answer.

If you find yourself with your foot in your mouth far too often, what can you do to correct that?

1. Don't say that you know exactly what someone is going through. You don't. Exactly is too exact a word. It's inaccurate. It shouldn't be used. Circumstances and personalities are unique. Thus no one can know exactly what another is going through.

2. Don't compare. There is always bigger and smaller fish in the sea-with bigger and smaller issues. Someone's current brand of pain and suffering may not compare with the scope of someone else's, but that doesn't mean it isn't rocking their world. No one is helped when we are comparing.

3. Listen first, then if necessary-speak. Weep with those who weep. Keep the platitudes and advice to a minimum, if you are going to use them at all.

4. Remember how it felt when you went through something earth shattering. Remember what helped you most, and what just added to your burden. And then act accordingly. 

I remember when my brother showed up for me at my sister-in-law's visitation. It meant so much to me. Before that time I had avoided visitations and funerals like the plague, but my brother showing up for me has prompted me to get out of my comfort zone and show up for others.

The cards, flowers and meals that people brought us during that time meant a whole lot more to me, than people quoting Romans 8:28 or other Scriptures. I already knew the promises. The quoted promises made me feel preached at, not comforted. I knew God was faithful. I wasn't in danger of losing my faith. Ever. But, too, I was struggling to see the faithfulness at the moment, in that circumstance.

5. Just say, "I care. I'm praying for you. What tangible thing can I do for you today to show you I care?"

How about the other side of the coin?

Sometimes when we are going through hard things, we hunker down because we don't want to subject ourselves to people's stupidity and/or insensitivity. This is a logical response, but it is not always the best response. It doesn't allow others the opportunity to minister to us in our time of need.

Someone recently reminded me...

Vulnerability can build bridges-if we let it.

But if your vulnerability seems only to have bred stupidity, how should you react?

1. Some people are jerks who deliberately say and do cruel things. We have to forgive these people, but we also don't have to divulge all our vulnerabilities to these people. If they are not safe places, they don't deserve our confidences.

2. Accept that for the most part, people are well meaning. Insensitive, but well meaning. So, try to see their heart. And resist the urge to build protective walls around your own heart.

Sometimes what people are saying, and what we are hearing are two totally different things.

Sometimes what someone is trying to say is, I hear you. Sometimes what we are hearing is, this is how this is all about me...

Sometimes people are trying to express empathy and find common ground by filtering your experience through their experience...

a kid with cancer versus a kid with a fever
forever infertility versus temporary infertility
chronic illness versus pain in their little toe once upon a time

This filtering may come off as ridiculous and uninformed. Trivialized and minimized. Uncaring.

But, maybe what they are trying to say is that when they went through this other thing, it rocked their world. Maybe what they are trying to say is that when they went through their thing they started to realize that maybe they aren't as in control of everything as they'd like to think. 

Maybe that person is trying to see your heart, and say they truly do care. Even if it coming out all wrong.

3. When someone says "let me know what I can do to help," let them know. I know, I know. It's humbling. It puts the burden on you. And, in a perfect world it would obviously be more helpful if people would be more intuitive/forceful with their offers. "I'm coming to pick up your laundry this week." or "I am bringing dinner on Tuesday."

But, don't question the offer. Don't over think it. Just graciously say, "what I could really use is"...or "this would be helpful"

We don't live a perfect world. Sin and sinners have messed things up royally. We are broken people in broken circumstances trying to brokenly minister to other broken people.

But, maybe, with some care and circumspection, we can occasionally get that ministering thing right...