Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why pat answers don't encourage me

Pat answers to problems never encourage me, so why do I give them?

About three weeks ago, I met a group of ladies for the first time. They were all in a circle talking about various things, but one mom was particularly distressed. Her nearly grown son has a serious but unknown ailment. She, like anyone would be doing, was asking almost EVERYONE she knew about doctors, alternative treatments, nutritional therapy... anything!! that could help him.

So, I blurted out some website of a nutritional medicine thingy that helped a friend of mine and acted like: here it is. This is the answer. She just looked at me, perplexed. It wasn't just me, though. We were all hurling her advice, websites, phone numbers, locations for organic beef already. She probably was just as overwhelmed as you could imagine.

I quietly rebuked myself. I went back to my knitting. Am I dork or what?? I hate pat answers. She doesn't even know me. She's stressed out. She needs compassion. She needs the Lord to do a miracle. Hey! I can pray!

The next week someone else had issues to discuss. No longer was this woman's son the problem. I think we were talking about the cow population producing too much gas--and other atrocities. But this poor woman sat in the corner. The Lord reminded me. Did you pray for him? Yes, I did.

So, I asked her, "any progress with your son?" She lit right up. Someone noticed enough to ask. I told her I was praying. There was no progress, but they had the name of a doctor and were a little hopeful.

Two weeks passed before we got together again.

The son was there with his mother. The mother's face lit up when she saw me. The son even knew I was praying for him. He said, "Your prayers are being answered. I am feeling a lot better". The whole time we were there, this woman and I were fast becoming "best friends". I learned so much about them, their 8 kids, various things their family is going through, and noticed all that I would not have noticed from an "easy answer" kind of conversation.

There is no substitute for compassion. It is golden. Why is it the hardest thing to do, then?

Pat answers are just not kind, especially when someone is hurting. I know some people need or want direct, precise answers for things some times, and that is fine. But too often, we.. meaning I.. do not consider the other option before speaking. Oh, that I would get a hold of this!!

There are SO many hurting people out there. How can we know the depths of each person's struggles? We can never assume that they are doing fine.

When we come together with the Christians tomorrow, let's leave the critical spririt in the trash can where it belongs. Look for someone to love. You will definetly see Christ in a new way.


momstheword said...

Wonderful post. I think sometimes we just have a desire to "fix" things. But not all things can be fixed that easily.

A kind word, a hug, a "how are you" can go a very long way, like you said. Compassion is always appreciated I think.

Kathryn said...

You're right, true compassion is hard to find. I think the reason we give pat answers is that it is easier, & it gives the appearance of empathy. The sad thing is that it is faux.

It is our desire, often, to "fix" things as Momstheword said. And when things are out of our control & we find we can't fix them it feels so uncomfortable. So we fall back on something that sounds like it is helping.

I'm more at sin on this issue, for not only do such things not encourage me, but i tend to get angry at them. Oh, i don't say anything, but i do.

One thing i've heard so often over & over is "things happen for a reason." And more - i lost our baby for a reason. That's hard to take, but when the person then starts speculating what God's "reason" might have been . . .

I've been blessed not to have THAT conversation too often.

God's blessings on you dear, for making the effort to remember & touch this dear mama's heart. Thank you for recognizing true compassion & exercising listening rather than trying to cover over your own natural discomfort. :)

Mrs. Parunak said...

It seems to be an epidemic. Whenever someone tells about a problem, the advice instantly starts rolling in, as if that were the best response to hearing bad news. I know I'm guilty. Sometimes people don't need our advice, especially when we don't really know much about the issues they're struggling with. Thanks for the good reminder.

Nicole {tired, need sleep} said...

I needed to be reminded of this... thank you so much.

Happy WAHM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Happy WAHM said...

Amen....I truly appreciate the reminder about being compassionate. I have always considered myself a compassionate person but I have learned that I am not always compassionate when it is NEEDED & where it's needed.

Organizing Mommy said...

You all are very kind! Kathryn, I am so sorry about your loss. I can only imagine how you must be hurting. Help us understand what is the right thing to say, not say, do, not do, in these circumstances.

God bless you!