One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
As a leader working in churches, I’ve obviously come alongside my share of people who have experienced grief and tragedy and loss. Typically, in a situation where one is hurting and/or grieving, they fall into three different categories:
- you know of them,
- you know them, but you’re not on “friend” status, or
- you’re friends with them (obviously the depth scale of friendship is broad: friend to good friend to great friend to best friends).
I’m sure there are appropriate responses for each of those types of categories when friends are hurting, but I want to share what I’ve learned from (3)…my friends.
When my mom was in the hospital, then on hospice, and then when I had to deal with post-death details, I felt extremely exhausted and lonely.
During those three weeks, I realized that I’ve been an average friend to my friends who have experienced crisis. Here’s what happened in my situation: almost every one of my friends made contact, told me they were praying for me, family, mom, etc., and most said and/or wrote, “If there’s anything I can do, let me know.” It’s a very sweet and genuine gesture. Actually, it’s EXACTLY the type of gesture that I’ve expressed in the past. Exactly!
But here is what I learned during those three weeks that has changed my response: I’m not just offering up help, I’m showing up. (I’m embarrassed it took so long to learn.)
Everyone offers to help! I’ve done this so many times. But, very few people actually show up. In this particular crisis with my mom, I had a couple buddies who showed up in my life every single day during those three weeks. Everyday they made their presence known via voicemail, text, or they came by to see what I needed…the method changed, but the message was the same—“I’m here for you. What can I do to help you?” Most of the time I didn’t need anything, but their persistence and their presence was powerful, and their persistence was much more meaningful than I would have thought.
These friends taught me so much and exposed the weakness in friendship I’ve displayed for years. Yes, I’ve experienced Bible college, seminary, and 30 years in the church and I’m still learning how to live in community and be more aware of the needs of others.
Showing up is scary. It triggers fears: “I may just be getting in the way.” “They probably want their space.” “They just need to be alone.”
When people are hurting, most don’t want to be alone. They’re waiting for their friends to show up.
Question: What have you learned “being there” for people in their pain? Share here.
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