How Not to Say the Wrong Thing

It’s hard. Someone you love is hurting. They’ve lost a loved one. They just found out they have cancer. They’ve lost their job. The circumstances don’t really matter, but the advice is the same. Think before you talk.

It seems like common sense really. But unfortunately, we don’t always exercise common sense when we are talking with someone who’s hurting. The fact is, some of us talk too much and listen too little. We talk when we get nervous…and I think hurting people make us nervous. So we talk. And when we talk, sometimes we say dumb things.

I heard a classic example of this tonight while Jim and I were on a date, eating our picnic dinner and waiting for the band to play. An older gentleman sitting behind us was talking about the funeral of his 90-something year old mother. Yes, I was eavesdropping. Anyway, he shared that at his mother’s funeral, someone “comforted” him with these words.

“It’ll be okay. You probably won’t miss her that much since she was so old.”

That is NOT comfort. That IS just plain stupid. Kind of like Job’s friends, this particular friend would have been better off keeping silent.

Tonight before the concert, Jim and I attended the wake of a 25-year-old man who was killed in a motorcycle accident. I felt at a total loss as I hugged his mom, his aunt, and his grandmother.  I couldn’t imagine their grief. It would have been silly of me to offer some kind of wisdom at a time such as this. They need to know people love them. And are praying for them. Words of wisdom can wait.

During my own battle with cancer, I was most thankful for those who offered the wisdom of scripture and the comfort of music. Some folks said very little. They just assured me they were praying. That was perhaps the greatest encouragement of all. So few words. Yet, so much comfort.

I read an article today that offered some great advice on helping a hurting friend. And how NOT to. If you have ever wanted to offer comfort and wondered what to say–or what NOT to–you will appreciate the wisdom here.

If you want to learn the lesson of “Comfort In, Dump Out”…read on.

“When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan’s colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn’t feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague’s response? “This isn’t just about you.”…(keep reading)



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