How does one relate to those who are suffering? Dr. Kenneth Haugk in his book "Don't sing songs to a Heavy Heart" says that the very strong desire to help another person, which motivates us tremendously in our caring, sometimes gets in the way of relating effectively. Here is a list of some goals you might want to achieve when relating to someone who is suffering. You might want to help the person:
1. Get better
2. Accept his or her situation
3. See the hopeful side of the situation
4. Make healthy choices
5. Maintain good relations with relatives and friends
6. Feel close to God
7. Develop stronger faith
8. Inspire others by his or her Christian response to pain and suffering
These are great goals, but suffering people hardly ever achieve any one of them as a result of another person mapping out a particular path for them. In fact, the best way to ensure that suffering people don't get to a spiritual or emotional good place is to impose your thoughts, feelings or beliefs on them in an attempt to help them feel better or "get over it."
What does work, however, is being fully present for them and allowing God to heal while you care. The following are some natural human tendencies that can block effective caring.
The Human Desire to Want to Fix Things
- The trouble with trying to fix someone else's emotional or spiritual problem quickly usually just covers up his or her pain.
- Suffering people don't respond well to quick fixes or easy solutions because this short-circuits the normal coping process.
- It feels easier to give advice or "help" a person to change their situation than to let ourselves be uncomfortable with someone else's pain or suffering. It's often better quietly to sit with someone while they mourn than quickly try to dry their tears.
- A good rule of thumb is Fix things; relate to people.
- As well-meaning and well thought out your outcome-based plan or agenda might be, the suffering person will know it and will either resist it or will just go along without owning the process and without being helped.
- One problem with a preplanned agenda it that you become so focused on it that you aren't attentive to the needs of the person you are suppose to be caring for.
- The problem with wanting a preplanned agenda and following it is that it might be there for our own discomfort rather than for the needs of the suffering person.
- Your best agenda is not to have one -- except to follow the agenda of the suffering person. Then you are really caring.
Hitting Home Runs
- When caring for suffering people its not necessary to "hit a home run" in saying or doing the right thing to make the person feel better immediately. Rather the suffering person needs your consistent, caring presence.
- Its ok to "hit homeruns." The point is "Don't try to hit homeruns." A smooth, consistent approach works best in baseball and in caring. It takes the pressure off you as a care giver and it is more effective for the care receiver.
- No one can wish hurts away, and no one can take them away. That's God's business. He calls us to walk with hurting people sharing and being Christ's love and compassion. Doing that makes a significant difference in a suffering person's life.