Monday, September 14, 2009

The Right Words

There are people in my life who are going through some hard things at the moment. I'm not going to share the specifics, because when they shared their issues with me, they weren't saying, "I'm sharing this confidence with you, but, by all means, broadcast it to the Internet for general comment and derision."

That's my guess, anyway.

It's times like this that I sometimes wish I was a man. There's the obvious---I would love to write my name in the snow just once (okay, full disclosure: I tried to do this once when I was in college, during a ski trip. Unsuccessful.) Additionally, I would like to be able to pass along words of wisdom, man-style.

It seems to me that men deal with tough issues one of the following ways:

1) "That sucks, man."
2) "Do you wanna get a drink?"
3) "I think Ice Road Truckers is on."

This is not to negate the helpfulness of these remarks. Men, as a general rule, acknowledge, avoid, deflect, and deal. There isn't a lot of "processing" or "emoting." That is, unless, you're Robert Smith of The Cure. Or these guys.

For most men, a hearty "That sucks, dude," is sufficient. 

Women, on the other hand, talk through their problems. It's hard to say the right words at the right time. 
My tendency, at times, is to share my own experiences to shed light on a specific problem or add a different perspective. I fear that this is not helpful, but yet another way to feed my narcissism.Yet, I know that I have had life experiences for a reason, and God has put people into my life specifically. So when do I share, and when do I shut up?
I offer prayers, but I do not take this time to evangelize. Should I? I don't want to add stress to a person, nor do I want to close the door on an opportunity. 

I listen, and listen, and nod my head, and cry with friends. But when it comes to words, I feel like the best I can do is, "That sucks," or a slightly kinder version, "I'm so, so sorry." 

So, what do you do? What are the right words when  friends deal with illness, disorders,  fear, death, miscarriage, divorce, abuse, infertility, broken relationships, hospitalization, accidents, or any other BIG THING in this sometimes cruel and relentless world?

Are there right words? How do you know what to say?


Corrie Howe said...

First of all, I love the picture. Too Cute.

Second, I think being aware the God sends people to you, that you desire to minister to them and you know you have weaknesses are exactly where you need to be.

Just trust that the Lord will use all these things. For their good and His Glory. I'm confident the Lord is pleased with you.

Tom Mohrman said...

I think that when people talk to you about these big issues, they are doing one of two things: 1) they are looking to unload and gain some sympathy, or 2) they are seeking advice.

I'd say it's a given that they respect your opinion and experiance or they'd never confide in the 1st place. Ask yourself what kind of person this is, and consider your relationship with them. Are you an equal, mentor, student, etc...

There is a gender bias to how we deal with each other. I don't pretend to know or understand the m.o. of exclusively female interactions. That's it's own cipher. Dudes do discuss feelings though. Mostly with females, but still...

Melani said...

Some times I think it is perfectly ok to say "oh that sucks" or "I am so so sorry"....I think your friends that choose to tell you what they are going thru do it becasue they can trust you and you must have said/done something in the past that makes them want to share "big" issues.

I think listening is the key when someone needs to unload on something big. I try to listen and then if it is something I can relate to or that I have been thru I gently offer it up...if it is not something I have had experience with then I let them know that too, and prayers always help in any situation. I even tell people I know that may not even go to church, or believe, or have different beliefs, that I will pray for them/or their situation.

The power of Prayer really rocks!