What I had done would hurt my wife Cari severely. Marriage does that sometimes. It’s sad really. The person you love the most, you have the power to hurt the worst. I had become someone I didn’t recognize. My actions had confused even myself. I was lost. And as I sat at a patio table across from a true friend, he just listened as I shared my story.
I tried to swallow a bite around a huge lump in my throat. I couldn’t eat much, just pushed food around my plate. I’ve had some extreme pain in my life; some of which happened to me, the rest I have brought on myself. What had I become?
After about an hour of hem-hawing around, I finished my story but not my sandwich. He just looked at me with a warm smile on his face. “Mikey, you’re a man of God. You’ve always done the right thing. I have no doubt you’ll do the right thing now.”
That day, because of what Micah Timmons had said, how he had listened, how he had believed in me…I had the courage to do what needed to be done. I had to tell Cari.
We have all been in the place where we have sat across a table from someone deep in the throws of pain. That is such a precious place to be, a privilaged place to be. There are huge ways you can help somoene in that position, and ways we can send them deeper into the pain and destruction they are in. The following list will provide you with five things “to do” in that situation, and five things to make sure to “not do.”
TOP TEN WAYS TO HELP SOMEONE OVERCOME PAIN:
1. Remind Them Who They Are
When someone is heavy with something horrible that they have done, this is a perfect playground for our adversary who is a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He is the “father of lies” and if he can get someone to believe that they are the sum of the sins they have committed, they may get stuck in this vortex of depression for the foreseeable future. The sin they have committed may have them bound in shame and confusion, leading them deeper into that sin. The cool thing is you may be the friend who gets to sit across a table from them and say, “I know who you are. You are a man of God. You’ve always done the right thing. I know you will now.” It’s important that when reminding them of who they are, that this is not a cut and paste from this blog, or necessarily what Micah said to me. It needs to be specific to them, and backed up with instances of how what you are saying is true.
2. Don’t Point Out How They Failed
When someone is lost in their sin, the last thing they need to hear is how they failed. Oh it’s probably true, but remember that our enemy speaks many truths and he even uses the Word of God to do it. My wife, Cari says “Condemnation is truth without hope. Conviction is truth wrapped in hope.” Condemnation says, “You’re a sinner. You’ll never be anything else.” Conviction says, “You have sinned, but you are a New Creation!” They already know how they failed. In fact, they are teetering on the edge about to fall into a pit of confusion (if they haven’t already) because of what they have done.
3. Let Them Talk
Some people process verbally. There is great power in letting someone talk. You’ll be tempted to correct them from the get go, but it’s important to restrain and let them vomit all the poison out. It may come in waves, meaning, it may not come all at once. This is particularly hard when you’re the one they have sinned against. It’s important (though nearly impossible) to separate yourself from the situation enough in this instance. The best thing you can do is to let confession come out as it will. This may take awhile. If you’re not the one that has been sinned against, just let them talk. If they are processing through how someone has hurt them, or how they have experienced great loss, just let them talk. Most likely, they will figure out the answer themselves. They just need someone who will put their arm around them and let them know they aren’t alone.
4. Don’t Make Them Talk
As stated above, it’s important to let them talk it out, even vomit it out. This one is important because as one is confessing to a sin, or how someone hurt them, or God forbid, how bad it hurts that they lost a loved one, they need to “feel heard.” To feel heard, one has to be able to let it out in their own timing. If you dig too much or press too hard, it comes out sideways. They may feel rushed, or like you’re just waiting for your turn to speak.
Just wait…in the uncomfortable silence, for as long as it takes. And when they come back with more confession, or perhaps more memories of that lost loved one, or how hard seeing that ex-boyfriend is, they need to be able to share that. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just sit in silence on that porch swing, exuding love toward them.
5. Reinforce Their Pain
This sounds like the wrong thing to do, but I assure you, when someone is deep in pain (whether caused by someone else or themselves) they feel stupid for being hurt by this pain. “I’m supposed to be stronger than this.” “I should be able to just get over this.” The worst thing you could do is compare their pain to someone who “is really hurting,” because “after all it could be worse. cheer up, buddy!” I cringe as I write that. They need to know that their pain is valid. Pain was designed by God to show us that something is wrong. If we ignore it, that rarely ever makes it go away. Sometimes all someone needs to know before they can start on the road to recovery is that it’s okay to hurt and that someone understands.
6. Don’t Be A Hero
This goes with #5. Speaking about fixing someone else’s problems, I heard a rancher once say, “When we FIX something, we castrate it.” How true that is. When we FIX someone else’s problems, we rob from them the ability to resolve their own problems. This neuters them. It castrates them. It takes away their power. The best way to help someone is to give them the courage to help themselves.
One of my favorite episodes of “How I met your mother” was when one of the couples (and I can’t remember which) was in a crazy cycle of fighting. It was caused because the male (I think it was Ted) thought his job was to fix her problems. She would vent, and he’d go right into a solution. This caused fights throughout the whole episode. Someone finally told him to say 5 powerful words, “Oh man, that really sucks.” Finally at the end of the episode, while she is venting, he says the five words. She says, “Awwww” and lays her head on his shoulder. He looks shocked as if to say, “THAT’S ALL IT TOOK?!!” You’d be surprised. Don’t be a hero.
7. Gently Reframe The Pain
If the problem hasn’t been fixed by this point, and or, you see a major lie from the enemy that this person is believing, it may finally be time to step in. The key word here is GENTLY. The other key word here is REFRAME. Sometimes to reframe may be seen as coming against them. What is reframing? This is where you can see that someone has embraced a lie: “I’m a loser,” “Everybody hates me,” “I never wanted to do this job in the first place,” and you guide them back to truth. The fact is they are not a loser, not everyone hates them, and at one point they actually enjoyed that job. The problem is that pain has shrouded all those memories in darkness. If they don’t come around to the truth by the end, that’s the time to gently push back a bit.
8. Don’t Rebuke
“Oh come on man, he’s not like that.” or “Dude, that’s not what happened,” or “Dude, the Bible says…” Emotions are raw and they come in like a flood. Rebuking will only add gasoline to the fire, shut them down, keep them from dealing with the real problem, and make them feel completely isolated and alone.
9. Reaffirm Your Respect Toward Them
When someone is vulnerable enough to expose their emotional nakedness, it has the ability to make them feel very weak and stupid. I can’t overstate this one enough. When a friend comes to you with pain, that potentially places you in a place of authority over their lives. They may feel subservient to you. They may feel that they are no longer equals, and especially with men, this is worse than death to them. They are afraid of losing that respect that is like oxygen to them. For more on this read “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerich. The best thing you can do is reinforce how much you respect them, how much strength it took for them to be that vulnerable, etc. This places you back on the same level, and or keeps them from feeling like you look down on them.
10. Don’t Overreact
By not overreacting, we show them that we believe in them.
How? I’m glad you asked! If I said, “Dude, i want to tear that guy’s head off!” and you looked at me wide-eyed, pulled out your phone and started dialing 911, I’d know you really don’t know me, and you sure don’t believe in me.
On the other hand, if you said, “dude, I get it,” that communicates, “I know you’re not crazy. I know you’re not violent. I know you’re just blowing off steam…maybe even in an unhealthy way, but I get it. You’re vomiting.”
Vomiting is not pretty….ever…but oh so necessary. Going back to #6, you don’t have to FIX this person. That’s not your job, so making them vomit prettier is not the goal here. After they calm down, they’ll probably say, “man I was pretty harsh about so-in-so. I’m sorry.”
Pain comes in all shapes and sizes. It comes from the outside. It comes from the inside. We bring it on ourselves. It comes from generations of watchign things be done the wrong way. It comes from childhood. It comes from yesterday, and even from today. It’s something we’ll face for the rest of our lives. Because of that, we need to be there for others when they go through it, and my hope is that you’ll have a friend as good as Micah Timmons was for me that day. Someone who will believe in you and help you remember who you are and empower you to do the right thing.