Do Your Words Add To The Suffering Of Others?

September 15, 2016

Do Your Words Add To The Suffering Of Others

Do you often hear from a loved one, “my life sucks,” or “everything is horrible in my life”? In that moment do you immediately go to the place of trying to fix it or make it right?  Are your words adding to the suffering of others?

I know by nature the optimism in me comes flying out in full force. I quickly scan the horizon and see all the places that to me are not so bad. Then I immediately find it my duty to inform all about the positive side of things.

So far this tactic has never worked. I have yet to be met with, “You are so right my life isn’t so bad.” Instead, I realize I have missed yet another opportunity for connection by failing to embrace the pain. I have added to the suffering with my words.

Don’t you desire and need for someone to hear your pain? It can help one move forward. So why would it be different for our loved ones? As they cry out that life is hurting in this moment why not embrace it and validate it? After all, we are not talking about all moments; we are talking about the present moment that hurts.

I remember a time when all I needed was to be heard…

I felt this intense sensation down deep in my body that kept trying to come up. It hurt! I could barely comprehend the doctor’s words as she said, “She needs to go to a treatment center.” I cried out, how could this be, we’ve already tried that path? It didn’t work. How could I send my daughter away for the second time?

Questions and self-doubt whirled through my mind. What kind of mother is not capable of helping her child? Why would God give me a child and then allow me to fail? I didn’t think my heart could hold that pain once again, not just my pain but her pain too. I was well aware that after making a decision to send my daughter away, I would be met with disappointment and anger.

The anger would rise, which would confirm my belief that I had failed. I was a bad mom.

The anguish that came from believing my daughter would hate me forever was unbearable. The realization that I couldn’t save her tore at my soul. Once again I  would miss precious months with her.  A question loomed in my head, “Would our relationship survive the second stay away from home.”

I sought wise counsel; I spent time with friends, and I cried out to God to show me another way.

Well-meaning responses were received from others. In their quest to bring me the guidance, I was met with, “Oh, of course, she won’t hate you.” “She will get better and thank you.” “You are a great mom.” These well-meaning statements may have been correct, but they didn’t bring me to a place of comfort or peace.

Finally, a few brave souls willing to go with me to that dark place responded, “Okay so what if your daughter does hate you forever? What will that mean?” We sat in that intense pain for a while, acknowledging the potential loss.  After being heard, I was able to move forward. I advanced from the pain of the possibility of no relationship; to the realization, my daughter would be alive, she would have a chance at a life worth living. I had arrived at acceptance and only then could I make the necessary decisions that could bring about change. 

So when your loved ones go to those places of pain, think about trying a new response.

Embrace and validate their pain instead of trying to wipe it away and fix it.

It can be scary to state back their pain as if we have stamped our approval on it. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Judging pain as right or wrong will not lessen it, but simply saying I care about you and your pain is significant just might make a difference. I know it does in our family. Don’t let your words add to the suffering of others.

words


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31 Comments

  1. Reply

    Lois Flowers

    Maree, I see you originally posted this last year, but this was so good for me to read today. I need to remember and follow the “rule of 3” that you mentioned in the comments above … that’s really helpful. And what a blessing for you to have friends who were willing to help you work through those hard questions when your daughter was facing her second stay at the treatment center.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Lois, Yes, I did indeed post it last year. I started blogging a year ago and recently discovered the link-ups. I have been going back and reposting some of my older ones.

      The “rule of 3” is one of my favorite skills. It almost never fails me, but I many times fail to use it. Yes, I have been blessed to have many friends willing to help. I couldn’t have done it without them. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. It meant the world to me. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. Maree

  2. Reply

    Timberley @ Living Our Priorities

    So much TRUTH in this, we have become so adapted to comfort with words without weeping with those who weep. I am so glad you had a few who were willing to listen to understand instead of listening to respond. Great tips. Stopping by from Grace & Truth Linkup.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Such a jewel you mention in your comment. We all need to listen to understand.Thank you for stopping by and leaving your wisdom. Blessings, Maree

  3. Reply

    Liz Giertz

    Great tips! Sometimes people just need to know their feelings matter. Blessings!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Liz,

      Yes, so true don’t we all like to know our feelings matter. Hope you have an awesome weekend. Maree

  4. Reply

    Crystal Twaddell

    I’m so grateful for your honesty and your challenge here Mariee Dee. It is uncomfortable and scary to be the kind of friend that enters in and as a counselor told me, “chooses to sit in the pain” with another. I’m learning in a period of my own suffering of the hidden grace and strengthening waiting to be unearthed through this shared weeping. Your testimony has strengthened me today friend!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Crystal, I agree, it is scary to enter in and sit with someone in their pain. I want to fix it, yet in all honesty, I can’t. I am sorry you are in a period of your suffering but so glad you have people to share in your weeping. As I send this reply back to you, I am lifting you up in prayer. Hope your weekend is restful and peaceful one. Maree

  5. Reply

    Tips to Help Others in a Season of Suffering

    […] week, Maree shares about a time in her life when she was suffering and feeling discouraged. The words of others, though well-meaning, ended up hurting even […]

  6. Reply

    Brandi Raae

    So true. Sometimes you just need someone to walk alongside you. Be there for you during trials and pain. Rattling off all the reasons why you shouldn’t feel the way you do provokes anger and defensiveness much of the time. Not that positive things don’t need to be said at some point, but there is wisdom in waiting for the right moment. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing at Literacy Musing Mondays!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Brandi, Well said, timing is everything. I have the rule of “3” works well. Validate three times before adding something else. Thank you for being so faithful in reading my posts each week and commenting. It means the world to me. Blessings, Maree

  7. Reply

    Deb Wolf

    I’m sitting here with tears filling my eyes. I can so relate to your post. Ours is a very long story, one that still hurts. So, thank-you for this. It’s true, listening with compassion and kindness is one of the best gifts we can give each other. Thanks so much for sharing this at the Faith ‘n Friends Link Party. God bless you!

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Deb, I am sorry your story hurts still, but I can relate. It is a long road, and I keep learning. I am so glad to connect with you. It is nice to go through life with others that understand. Blessings, Maree — Thank you fo the Faith ‘n Friends Link Pary. I look forward to it every week. Maree

  8. Reply

    Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Maree,
    Our family is no stranger to mental illness and the trials it brings. Well meaning people try to “fix” the situation, or because they feel a need to say something, they offer platitudes or cliche phrases. Even offering scripture can further put salt in wounds when someone is really hurting. Like you so beautifully pointed out…validating someone’s pain and allowing them to feel what they are feeling is often the best gift we can offer. Sometimes no words are needed, but offering a hug, crying with them, allowing them to express their emotions, and just being near and present is following in Jesus’ example. Praying for you, your daughter, and your family.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Bev, You are so right many times no words are needed to validate someone’s pain. Funny you mentioned scripture. I love receiving scripture when we are struggling. However, I have a good friend that absolutely does not want scripture sent her way. She has a strong faith, so it doesn’t have anything to do with that. Each person can be so different as far as what validates or comfort them. What works for one does not for the other. Thank you for your wise words of wisdom. Blessings, Maree

  9. Reply

    Lesley

    Such great wisdom here! It is so true- it makes such a difference just to know that we are heard and that someone cares. I have seen the power of this from both sides and I agree, it’s difficult not to fall into wanting to fix things at times, but so much better when we can just listen and show empathy.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Lesley, You are a wise woman. Tonight I found myself wanting to jump in and rescue someone when listening was the smarter move. Empathy is always a smarter move. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. Blessings, Maree

  10. Reply

    Meg Weyerbacher

    This is a needed message for even me, who is a fixer. Thanks for this gentle reminder.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      I am right there with you; I always want to fix things. I have to fight the urge. Blessings, Maree

  11. Reply

    Sarah Geringer

    I completely agree: “Embrace and validate their pain instead of trying to wipe it away and fix it.” That’s what I needed in the past, and though I can’t go backward and change it, I can offer validation to others now.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Sarah – So true, we can’t go backward we can only go forward with a better way. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Maree

  12. Reply

    D

    Thank you i needed to heat this today. As one who feels like a baby in this area I appreciate hearing what a difference 10 minutes can make. Going to give this a try and also find a way to get in touch with my own deep feelings so I can be ok with hearing the pain of my loved one.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      It is so hard to hear the pain of others but so important. Please do let us know how it goes.

  13. Reply

    Diane

    What a wonderful reminder of how we should comfort people. I often think, well I have been through a similar (although not the same) circumstance and if I share that, then the person will see that we survived. But that again, is a way of trying to “fix” the person’s problem. Sometimes just being with that person is what they need. When my children were growing up, I often mirrored their statements back to them when they were upset or angry. It validated their feelings and showed them that I heard what they were saying, giving them a safe place to talk to me. I need to remember that adults need the same thing when they are reaching out for comfort. Thank you for the honest reminder of how to be a good friend to someone in need.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Diane, Thank you for sharing how you validated your children. I have a hunch you are an amazing mom. I know I can do a great job at validating those that I think may need it but forget about everyone else. Heck, I know I like validation.

  14. Reply

    Bette

    Yes, when I remember to validate before jumping in to try to “fix” the situation, it seems to disarm my daughter and causes her to not feel so defensive. In other words, it seems to put us both on the “same page” and helps her know she’s not alone in her pain.

  15. Reply

    Marie

    As someone who personally struggles with Bipolar Disorder, I often find myself in dark places thinking in that moment that everything is terrible, my relationship with my parents suck, my romantic relationships are awful or non-existent because I have never found a man who can truly accept me with all my flaws. I know in those moments it’s very helpful to feel validated even if they seem silly or irrational. A wise person once told me to give myself an alotted period of time to dwell in this. For example set my timer on my phone for 10 minutes and for ten minutes I can cry, cuss, talk about how horrible it is then when that timer goes off I shut the lid. Because 9 out of 10 times my feelings are very intense and not all that accurate. I find it helpful when I’m with someone I trust who knows my struggles to join me in giving me that time to vent. I also appreciate reminders from friends and loved ones who remind me to give myself that time and together we talk about the horrible mess I feel like I’m in during that time.

    Feeling validated makes a world of difference in the long run.

    1. Reply

      Maree Dee

      Thank you for sharing your tip and your honesty about your feelings. I know as a mom we want to jump in so quickly to alleviate the pain because it is so hard to watch our children suffer. We usually error by not validating first. I know when I validate first things go so much better. Our hearts are in the right place just not always our skills.

      1. Reply

        Marie

        I totally feel like I need to be less defensive when I fee validated (even if my feels are irrational). I know recently I was extra sensitive and emotional and I let something get to me that really shouldn’t have. I went to one of my parents in tears crying hysterical and blubbering a bunch of none sense. What was great was my parent validated me, we spend no more than ten minutes listening to me cry, whine, and spew a bunch of irrational feelings. Since I felt validated I also felt like I was in a safe space to actually listen to what the other person had to say. When I calmed down they softly spoke to me and reminded me that I was feeling extra emotional and sensitive and kind of gave me a reality check. I walked away from that moment with a different attitude and response than when I walked into it. If I didn’t feel validated I can guarantee you that this conversation would have gone the opposite way. I would have been defensive and not have been open to hear what they had to say!

        1. Reply

          Maree Dee

          It is amazing how validation can work wonders. I know when I am validated things just feel and look different. My defenses go way down when I am validated.

  16. Reply

    Bette

    What a difficult, yet wonderful reminder for me today, Maree! I have also done what you have described and am still living with my daughter’s intense resentment, anger and hostility at being sent away several times when she was younger. However, I also know that my husband and I did the best we knew to do at the time… and quite possibly saved her life. Now, even though her memories seem to be worse than reality, and it’s tempting to defend our actions, thank you for reminding me that she is looking for validation from me regarding the pain she felt and still feels to this day. I appreciate the verse you quoted from Romans and know I must keep that top of mind when I finally get to interact again with our daughter in person…and I pray she will be open (instead of hardened) to my tears for her and realize they are genuine!

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