Dr. Kenneth Haugk, in his Christian caregiving book entitled Don't Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart, says that caring is action, not just good intention. Caring happens when you express your good intentions through loving and appropriate acts. As a caregiver you want to be helpful to suffering people but being helpful depends on what you do. Effective caregiving brings hope and encouragement to the sufferer. Less effective caring may not be as helpful.
In the chapter "For better or for Worse" Dr. Haugk shared feedback from research gathered from care receivers who shared actions that they found helpful during their time of need. He lists six caring actions. In previous blogs we shared the acts of sending cards and notes, making phone calls, asking questions and using humor. In this blog we share the final two.
5. Sharing Reading Material - People often think that sharing reading material with one who is suffering will bring comfort. Here are some ways to maximize the benefits and minimize the hazards in your sharing.
- Wait for the initial crisis or shock to pass - Generally it's good to wait a while before sharing reading material. A person hit hard with the diagnosis of cancer, for instance, probably will not be ready to read anything about cancer for a while. One caregiver noted, "People in pain don't want to read--they prefer to talk." Even then it's good to ask if they would like to read a particular book or article or not giving them permission to say yes or no.
- Share material you are familiar with - The most valuable book or article to share is one you have read and benefited from. Simply buying a catchy title is not helpful. Material that is preachy or full of platitudes tends to hurt more than help, and make sure the help fits the need.
- Share bit-sized morsels - A suffering person might not have the energy to read very much. Concentration is limited so the shorter the better. Underlining can be helpful if it is not preachy or intended to help the reader to "get the point."
- Give Rather than Lend - When giving reading materials to a suffering person, don't lend. Lending can increase the stress of trying to remember to give the materials back. Giving relieves that and also makes the material available for the person when he or she is ready for it. Think carefully about sharing reading material because what you share reflects you to the suffering person.
6. Assuring People of God's Love - This might seem obvious since Christians are called to share God's love, but it always is good to think carefully about when, how and why you go about it. Research shows that assurances of God's love can come across as either very powerful or empty. Here are some principles that can help.
- Be Sure You're Fulfilling the Sufferer's Need to Hear Assurance, Not Your Need to Share It.
- Don't Offer Assurance When Someone is Angry with God - Angry feelings are like puss in a wound. They need to come out before the comforting assurances of God's love can be applied effectively.
- If a Hurting Person Asks about God's Love, Don't Answer...Yet - One suffering person said that assurances "often felt like `pat answers.' Often people seem unable to cope with my intense sadness." The best result is when the suffering person, talks, weeps, even rants and then comes to their own conclusion about God's love. Then it's rooted deep in their heart.
- Be God's Love - Words are not the only way to let people know God loves them. Being God's love for them in your care and acceptance can be better. Both you and the suffering person are objects of God's love. You know it's true for you, and you can convey it to others by your caring actions.
For more information on the spiritual care services offered at Concordia, e-mail here or call 724-352-1571.