Feb 062015 1 Response

When Life Hurts: Show Me How to Treat You

When everyone knows you are pregnant and is excited for the new addition, word quickly spreads that you are headed for the hospital. When you go to the hospital at the end of an uneventful pregnancy expecting to have a perfectly healthy baby, only to have news you never expected, no one knows how to respond.

Some say the wrong things. “At least…” “It could be worse…”

A few say the right things: “I love you.” “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I care.”

Most say nothing. (See: Four Things to Never Say to Someone Grieving)

No one is ill-intended. The “some” are trying to do good; the “most” are trying not to do bad; and the “few” just happened to be more experienced with tragedy than the rest.

When Jenny and I went to the hospital for her to deliver our first child, we never considered leaving the hospital holding a child with a diagnosis. We didn’t know how to react and no one around us knew how to react.

As hard as it was, our friends and family needed something from us. Even as they were attempting to love us, assist us, and do everything in their power to help us, they needed us to do something for them.

They needed to know how to treat us. (See: What I Prayed the Night Ella Was Born)

They didn’t know what to do and the only chance for them to learn was for us to teach them.

We didn’t greatly know what we needed from them, but we knew some things and we learned many more things.

Whenever we go through difficult days—a death, job loss, a diagnosis, divorce, etc.—it is easy to desire and expect those around us to care for us and love us. We all need it at some point.

Yet we know too well what it is like to be on the other side of the equation.

  • What do you say when your best friend’s wife is cheating on him?
  • How do you respond when your son-in-law gets laid off?
  • What do you do when a friend’s child is accused?
  • How do you react when the baby was delivered but there are still no pictures on Facebook the next day?

We don’t know. We’ve all been there. I’m a pastor—an alleged professional in difficult times—and I have no idea what to say or do. I regularly walk toward hospital rooms praying, “Lord, help me not to say something stupid in this room.” I often put off a phone call because I don’t know if the parents of the prisoner want me calling or not.

I deal with tragedy in the lives of others every day, and I don’t know what to do; how could I ever expect others to know exactly what to say or do the first time something in my life didn’t go exactly as planned.

I couldn’t.(See: A Map for Navigating Life’s Disappointments)

So, over the next few weeks Jenny and I attempted to teach others how to treat us. We didn’t have to teach their hearts—they were fully alive and desiring to help. We had to instruct what would be useful actions and what would be a waste of time.

For us, it meant:

Don’t be afraid to say, “Congratulations” and “I’m sorry.” Both communicated what we were feeling.

Be quick to point out aspects of the baby and how she had my ears or her mother’s nose.

Ask what we were thinking or what fears we had.

Do whatever you would do for any other couple who had a baby–cook a meal, stop by for a short visit, etc.

More than anything, our friends and family needed permission to act. It was our job to give them that permission.

I’m not saying it is fair; I’m not saying it is right. In a perfect world it would not be necessary. But in the world in which we live, people do not know what to do during difficult times. We can either curse it and expect everyone to figure it out on their own (and of course they won’t so we will be miserable), or we can accept it and do everything in our power to show them how to treat us (which is actually easier than it sounds and can happen very quickly).

When life hurts, I need one thing from you: I need you to show me how to treat you.

Often times the difference between someone being fully supported through a tough season and someone feeling abandoned is not the love of a community but is the ability of the hurting to teach the community what to do. (See: Part 2 of Show Me How to Treat You)

When life hurts, kindly, compassionately, and with deep understanding show others how to treat you.

For more, see:

7 Recommended Books for When Life Hurts

Don’t Believe the Lie, ‘If You Have Your Health…’

What to Do When Life Falls Apart

One Response to When Life Hurts: Show Me How to Treat You
  1. […] week I wrote When Life Hurts: Show Me How to Treat You. The article was about going through times of... https://www.kevinathompson.com/show-treat-part-2

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