Over the past year, people have told me countless times they don’t know what to say to me, and you know what? That’s perfectly fine, because half the time I don’t know what I want to hear – but at least you are acknowledging something significant is going on in my life instead of ignoring it, which comes pretty close to flat out saying the wrong thing entirely.
And speaking of saying the wrong thing? Well, that does happen, but for the most part, Chip and I remind ourselves people’s hearts are usually in the right place and they meant well. Being from the South, I can throw the blanket phrase “Well, bless her heart” at most any situation to excuse someone for poorly chosen words or inappropriate behavior. The one exception was when someone once told me I must be cursed to have had all of these bad things happen to me. Cursed? I must be cursed?? Well, that’s really comforting, you dipshit. I should probably let that one go, but I still struggle with finding the charity in my heart to excuse that statement.
I stumbled upon this article on a friend’s Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, and I keep finding myself going back and reading it. I finally decided to post it, because I think it’s just so spot on: “How not to say the wrong thing” – http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/07/opinion/la-oe-0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407
I acknowledge it is hard to know what to say or do, or how to truly be helpful to someone, but after being in that first ring for a year now, I tell you: It can be just as uncomfortable being on the receiving end of “words” as it is to be on the delivering end of “words.” But what is far more awkward and exhausting is having to comfort someone or worry about their feelings. The day our family counselor confirmed we were only responsible for the emotional and physical well-being of four people and four people only–ourselves, each other and our kids–was liberating. Weight. Lifted.
If I may, here is my list of “dos” I hope is helpful:
- Acknowledge the present circumstances.
- Deliver short and sweet words that convey love and compassion. I am thinking of you. I am praying for you. My heart is with you.
- Offer words of encouragement and specific prayers. I am praying for your strength. I am praying for restorative sleep. Safe travels. I am praying for quality filled days. I am praying for healing. I believe in miracles.
- Be specific in ways you can help or be of service. I am good at raking leaves and doing yard work. I am going to Target and Trader Joe’s today so text me if you need anything from either of those places. I am really good at doing research. I am a night owl, so I can run late night emergency errands for you. I have much flexibility with my job, so I can be available during the day if you need anything. I nannied in college and am currently single, so add me to your list of readily available babysitters.
- Ask yourself if your words or actions are being helpful and serving others’ needs instead of your own.
- Listen without passing judgment.
And please, please remember, don’t make stupid ass comments like, “You must be cursed.”