Hurtful Words to Hurting People
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We go through tough times in life. From losing a loved one, dealing with health issues, losing a job, or dealing with difficult transitions, we experience times of mourning and grief.
There are two things people tend to remember when they go through hard times.
- They remember who was there for them.
- They remember what was said to them.
They remember who was there for them.
The best thing to do is to be there when a loved one is hurting. The best thing to say is nothing. Job is a book in the Bible that describes a man who stares suffering in the face. After his life is turned upside down, Job's 3 friends come to him. When they first saw him, they wept with him and sat on the ground with him for 7 days and nights without saying a word because they saw how great his suffering was (Job 3:12-13).
When people suffer, they need to know they aren't alone. They may not remember all of what you said, but they will remember you were there. The ministry of presence is key when caring for the broken-hearted. Avoid avoidance.
They remember what was said to them.
If people remember what was said to them, more than likely that's not a good thing. Platitudes are statements that cause more harm than help. Platitudes are better left unsaid. There is no latitude with platitudes.
Here are some examples of platitudes you might be tempted to say:
- "I know how you feel."
- "It's for the best."
- "He/she is better off."
- "At least..."
- "You should/shouldn't..."
- "God doesn't give you any more than you can handle."
- "It's God's will."
People don't want to hear these things. It will only make it worse.
Proverbs 25:20 says, "Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart."
In the story of Job, the moment his friends opened their mouths was the moment they got into trouble (see Job chapters 4-36).
The best thing to do when you first see a person who is hurting is keep it simple (Don't Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart).
Say, "Hello, it's good to see you. Fill me in on what's been happening."
As they share, you could say things like:
- "I'm so sorry."
- "That's terrible."
- "Oh, no!"
Let them do the talking, don't say much. If there is silence, it's okay. You can also offer a prayer of encouragement.
Hurting people need support. It doesn't take much to help them. Show empathy, pray for them, and follow up with them after you leave.