The Words of A Friend
We all need to talk things out at times, and who better than with a valued and treasured friend, right? Well, not so fast.
Our family has been going through an ordeal for the past two months, and it has been so very hard at times to find any sunshine when the storms were raging in our lives. There are times that I get quiet, and people mistake my quietness with anger. In reality, I am quiet because I am hurting deeply. There is a big difference!
Often times, I internalize things rarely speaking of what is causing so much pain in my life. When I do venture out of my shell and confide in people, it helps to have a friend that will build me up instead of tearing me down.
Within the past two months, I have encountered friends that have done a variety of things when I have dared to bare my soul to them regarding our struggles. There’s the one friend that doesn’t know what to say or do, so they just say that they are sorry and begin sending care packages to let me know that they are thinking of us and that they care about me and my family. They are available to talk when needed, and they will try to keep their opinions to themselves if it is not something that will help me heal. They do not lie to me, don’t mistake what I’m saying here. They will give an honest opinion if it will help the healing process. They will not just agree with me or say things that support me in my thinking. They listen to the entire situation (because I can’t just tell one thing, I have to tell you every little detail so you can get a clear picture of what has taken place so you will be equipped with all of the knowledge about the situation before you feel compelled to give any advice or speak in any way for or against what has happened).
There are others that say they care about me, and I honestly believe that they do, but they are harsher in their words and judgment of the situation. Granted, the situation may have involved a repeat offender in my life, in their eyes. They view the situation differently, and I respect their different perspectives on the situation. I truly do. However, they do not have to live with the consequences of what they tell me to do when this goes against what my heart is saying to do. They think they can very easily rationalize their advice and reasons that they are talking against giving someone another chance when, in their eyes, the offender has already had too many chances through the years which haven’t been taken seriously by the repeat offender. I understand their point of view. BUT … my heart is saying to give it yet one more try … give this person one more chance … give them the benefit of the doubt because in my heart of hearts, I truly believe that people CAN change if they want to! I believe this person, this “repeat offender” honestly wants to change now. I do! And I have faith that they will.
This week I have had two different people tell me things that hurt me deeply in regards to this situation. (I know it doesn’t help that I’m being so vague about what happened and what, exactly, the situation is that I’m referring to but I’m doing so in an effort to protect privacy and also because it hurts … deeply! Thank you for understanding.) One openly speaks out every chance they get, often talking over me when I’m trying to explain things, because they just do not want me getting hurt further. I understand that, but what this person is saying … every single time we talk … IS HURTING ME, TOO! If you feel worse after talking to someone or reading their emails, that should be an indication right there that you should no longer confide in this person. When you call or email a friend looking for support and what you get back in return is venom toward the person in the situation, that is a clue right there that this individual should not be the one that you go to for emotional support with the situation at hand.
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9
The words of a friend: Do they build you up or tear you down?
I would like to offer several things to consider when someone comes to you with a problem or a situation that is troubling them or hurting them deeply:
1. Listen to them. Honestly push aside any ill feelings that you may have toward the people IN the situation, as hard as that may be at times, and actively LISTEN to what the person is saying to you. Don’t sit there anticipating your next opportunity to interrupt them with your harsh words. Instead, allow them to speak – to talk as much as they need to about the situation. Listening involves TWO ears. Your mouth should not be engaged at this point at all if you are actively listening to your friend or family member.
2. Consider if they are actually asking for advice or if they simply need a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold. Maybe all they really want at that point in time is to vent, get it off of their chest, or to release it into the universe having chosen you for the vehicle in which to do this. Maybe that is all that is required for them to feel better at that point. Once it’s out of their minds and into the universe, they may feel completely relieved from the stress and anxiety so that nothing further is needed at that point in time. You simply helped them by listening and allowing them to get it out!
3. If they ARE seeking advice, be gentle with your words! What do you hope to accomplish here? If you know the person is coming to you for advice on what to do, then please proceed with caution and be as gentle and as tender as you can with your words. Remember, their hearts are already hurting and are so fragile. What you say and how you say it could shatter them.
4. Before you open your mouth, ask yourself if your words will help or harm them in any way. Will it help build them up in this situation or will it tear them down?
5. Put yourself in their shoes BEFORE you tell them straight off the cuff some quick response that is “sure” to end all of their troubles. For example, if someone is having marital issues, don’t just say, “Kick the bum out.” No, think about if this was YOUR marriage. It’s so easy to say things like this when we’re not the ones that are left with the broken lives. Think about that before you spout off harsh words. Would it not be better to ask the person if they honestly love their spouse? And if so, are they willing to do whatever it takes to work things out? If they can’t imagine their lives without their mates, why encourage them to end the marriage or the relationship when their heart wants to hold on? I’ll take it a step further here and ask you to put yourself in the shoes of the person that you just so quickly were ready to dismiss. What if your spouse or your mate went to someone else for advice and THEY were told such things that you just spoke to your friend in their time of crisis? How would you feel to know that someone said not to give YOU another chance or to kick YOU to the curb or that YOU were not worth it. See what I mean? That wouldn’t feel too good, now would it?
6. Think of the consequences of the advice that you’re giving. I touched on it above, but if your advice to a hurting spouse is to end the marriage, consider the consequences such as children that are involved that will ultimately be hurt in all of this. Think of their little lives that will be crushed when their parents get a divorce. Think of the tears that they will cry when Mommy and Daddy aren’t together any more. I know you can’t stay together for the kids, and in some cases, it is necessary to part ways. But, why not encourage them to try every thing humanly possible to work on the marriage? Why not be sure that they have exhausted EVERY effort and gone down every avenue toward reconciliation? Think of all of the family members involved that would have their lives completely shattered by your advice to “end it all because it’s not worth it …” maybe that’s where you’re wrong. Because people are ALWAYS worth it. Families are worth it. Children are worth it. Husbands and wives are worth it. Marriage is worth it! And love … as sweet and as painful as it can be at times all rolled into one … love is still worth it!
7. Brainstorm with the person. Ask what they have tried that didn’t seem to work. Then offer suggestions that will help them. If they would like to reconcile in their marriage, give them positive tips of encouragement and support to HELP them achieve this. I realize that both parties have to be willing, and it takes both people in the marriage working on it for it to work and for it to LAST. Your job can be to help them think of things that they haven’t yet tried that would help them. If they’ve tried something one way, suggest approaching it a different way so that it has the result that their hearts are hoping for.
8. Realize that it is ultimately their decision, and your job is not to place blame on either party in the situation. It is to love and care for people … PERIOD. We don’t need your judgmental comments. What we really need are friends that come alongside of us at this very difficult time to love on us and let us know that they care about us. Don’t get angry when your harsh words turn the person away from ever telling you anything ever again because of what they got back when they did try to confide in you and ended up in more pain than when they first started talking to you about it. Respect their relationship or marriage and offer words of encouragement and support, not hateful words of doom and gloom over something so sacred and near and dear to their hearts.
Be there for your friends, yes. Guard their hearts carefully from the world and from you, too, if necessary. Your job is to show them love, care for them, support them, and encourage them. Be truthful with them and speak honesty, but be gentle and kind when you do. There is so much power in the tongue – you can build people up and tear them down in the same sentence. Choose your words carefully. Some times there really is not a need to interject “But …” after someone pours their heart out to you. That’s something we can all keep in mind.
Be the encourager. Be the supporter. Be the one that speaks words of loving kindness. Be the friend that builds others up. Guard their hearts so that you aren’t the one tearing them and their relationships down.
July 10, 2014 @ 9:42 am
Sometimes it is best for people to just listen. I’m sorry your friend hurt you even more when they were trying to help. Not everyone is good with words of affirmation, I guess. I am sending prayers your way. I’m sorry you are dealing with a tough situation.
July 10, 2014 @ 3:28 pm
Logan, thank you for your sweet words. I appreciate them more than you know.
July 10, 2014 @ 11:44 am
This is great advice on how to be a friend. You cant change people but you can change how you react to them
July 10, 2014 @ 3:27 pm
I love that saying, Tara, and it is oh so true!
July 10, 2014 @ 12:19 pm
I always try and rely on Philippians 4:8 when I’m thinking things. You have to guard your mouth before you speak and make sure that it will glorify and not bring down anyone. Love this post!
July 10, 2014 @ 3:26 pm
Blessings to you, Jamie! I wish more would cling to this verse before offering any words, especially in a situation that is already painful for the person going through it.
July 10, 2014 @ 12:33 pm
Shirley, God sent you to CMB for His purposes this morning. I needed this. You encouraged me to write my story to help others, and I believe God wants me to share more than I have in the past. My struggle is our story isn’t ours alone and like you because of privacy issues I want to be very careful with my words.
Your advice here is spot on. Most hurting hearts need someone to listen, nurture, and help them work through the circumstances themselves. Which mostly happens through gently asked questions not answers.
Many blessings to you. I look forward to getting to know you better and pray God comforts your hurting heart.
July 10, 2014 @ 3:26 pm
Aww, bless you, Deb! I so enjoyed visiting your site today, and I feel that God did lead me to you this morning. He knew I needed to read your words and help support you, and you have helped more than you know by the kind, heartfelt words you have shared with me today. Thank you from my heart. I do look forward to your story. I know it will bless many hearts. ((hugs))
Laura (Lauras Little House Tips)
July 10, 2014 @ 12:42 pm
I feel for your struggle. I wish I had words to fix it but only you can. I found it odd you used “repeat offender” Not judging but that does indicate in your mind somewhere it will repeat. Our hearts rarely match up with our heads and while I have not walked a mile in your shoes. Purely an outsider. You have to understand that no one wants to see another hurt. I’ve had struggles also but have had to look outside of the issue and remember that I am a Mother and what advice would I give my own girls on this particular life struggle. Then I do what I would tell them. Is it easy no but being true to ones ones words …Well that is what it is about to me. People come and they go but your the only one that looks back at you in the mirror. Can you live with that?
July 10, 2014 @ 3:23 pm
I do understand your point, Laura. My friend’s words were to describe the person as a “repeat offender.” I should have clarified that. It is my sincere hope that this behavior does not repeat itself this time. As I said in the post, I do believe that people can change if they want to … it has taken an extreme situation for them to want to change, but this time I believe they truly do and will.
July 10, 2014 @ 12:48 pm
True friends would use their words to encourage you and not tear you down. Encouragement can be found even in the most negative situations
July 10, 2014 @ 3:21 pm
I agree! There is always a way to encourage and support someone!
July 10, 2014 @ 12:58 pm
Great advice. I’d venture to say that MOST of the time people just want a listening ear. The best change comes from within and not from some outside party badgering with advice. Advice, in my experience, usually does more harm than good, AND some lessons just need to be lived instead of told.
July 10, 2014 @ 3:20 pm
Very true, Christina. Some times all that is needed is a listening ear.
July 10, 2014 @ 6:03 pm
What a wonderful post. It’s definitely not an easy thing to go through at all.
July 10, 2014 @ 6:13 pm
Thank you, Ellen!
Jay @ Life of Creed
July 10, 2014 @ 10:40 pm
You share great advice in this post. Friends are suppose to lift each other up no matter the situation, not bring them down. Just know that if whatever the situation, God would not be putting it in front of you if you could not handle it. It may be that you are the one person that can help the repeat offender and help them with changing.
July 10, 2014 @ 11:49 pm
Jay, thank you for this. My heart so wants to help this individual. It is because of the great love that I have in my heart … I truly believe in this person! Thank you so much for what you wrote!