Sticks and stones may break my bones.
But only words destroy me.
I have struggled during this time over…how honest to be. Where is the line between grace and honesty? And how do you know when it is time to jump the line and just knock the crap out of somebody?!? Well…we’re not there yet. But I am still left to wonder about that line. That fine line between grace and honesty.
You see, in times of crisis…words fly. You know what else flies? Birds. They were created to fly, God guides their every move, and a bird has spent centuries being honed and developed by the ancestors of the species to know where to fly, how fast to go, and how to direct themselves. That’s how they fly. You know what else flies? Planes. They were designed to fly. There is a pilot in there guiding it to its destination masterfully…skillfully. Do you see what birds and planes have in common? There is careful direction from the beginning of the flight.
When words fly…you know what else does? Common sense. OOH!!! I just hurt somebody’s feelings. And the grace of the matter is…I’m okay with that. Because the grace of the matter is…it’s time for some honesty.
When words fly it seems to be one of HOW MANY reasons.
1. “I want to make myself feel better…by looking like I’m helping you.” Do you understand this one? Its very important. There are people who try to encourage you in your hope. Everything will be fine, Gods got this, God is going to give you a miracle. But you can just tell. You can see it in their body posture, their tone of voice, and the desperate searching of their eyes for something in your eyes to affirm them. “I’m telling you good things…because I’m just not sure good things are coming.” And let me just say…ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m kind of grasping onto my last shred of hope over here…I can’t waste the energy on stopping to ties yours back together.
2. “I want to remind you of a Christ truth…that I know you already know.” I’m not sure where this one comes from. And it fascinates me that people use it…because I have complained about it to enough other people to know that EVERYBODY HATES THIS ONE! This is the one where you’re standing beside an open casket or weeping in a waiting room and somebody says, “Well, it was just God’s time.” Or “Well, at least you know where He is going.” Or “God is good and everything is going to be okay.” Can I tell you what I want to know when I get these? As a Christian getting Christian cliches I want to look the person in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry. You don’t think I know that?!” I believe this one stems a little bit from the first one. But it is different because you are not only saying something to try to help you hold on to your relationship with Jesus…you’re kind of insulting mine. If you are with me in a waiting room or receiving line, I would assume you know me well enough to know that I already know that. I already got Jesus in my life…quit trying to push Him on me.
This leads into the next one…which is a new one for me.
3. “You need to stop dealing with your grief…and take care of your family.” My mother is dealing with the possibility of losing her husband. Her husband of 29 years. Her best friend of 34 years. I cannot even imagine what that is like for her. They were inseparable. For 34 YEARS. What is that like? I want to do anything I can to help her during this time. But can I tell you something many people seem to have forgotten? I am dealing with the possibility of losing my father of 27 years. My best friend of 27 years. Don’t imagine what that’s like for me. And don’t tell me to take care of anyone else…mom, aunt, friends, anyone. First of all…it’s an insult. If you know me you should know me well enough to know that my personality makes me the kind of woman who is going to do that. And secondly…who is supposed to take care of me? I acknowledge that the people I am being told to take care of…are taking care of me. But…who is being told to take care of me? … … That’s what I thought.
4. “I know exactly what you’re going through.” Let me have just a second to let the Holy Spirit stir His grace ALL up in my anger. I hate this one. I’ve already written this in a post, but allow me to re-iterate. If you had triplets. And the triplets were all losing their father. None of them…I repeat NONE of them would respond exactly the same! Though their biology is identical…their chemistry is not. One will be prone to anxiety, one will fall into a deep depression, and one will become more angry than they have ever been over anything! So maybe you’ve experienced death. Maybe you’ve experienced the death of your father. Maybe you experienced your father suffering through a massive heart attack one month after you 27th birthday. If that is true…you have no idea what I am going through. If this seems overly…rude? I would like to offer you a counter statement. Don’t approach someone and say “I know exactly what you’re going through.” Approach that person, hug them hard, and say “I have no idea what you’re going through. But I do no what it’s like to lose. If you need someone to listen without judgment…I’m always available.” Boom.
Now here’s the part where I really need you all to listen very carefully. I do not mean this as a condemnation. I acknowledge that the people who say these things are trying oh so hard to help my feelings and take care of me in this time. I say them not as a condemnation…but as a confession. A confession that some of the words I have heard have not helped me deal with my current situation…but have actually made it harder to keep my eyes on Jesus in this particular storm. I don’t want you to be mad, I don’t want to hurt your feelings. What I want most, from this post, is to let some people know that they’ve hurt mine. But even more importantly, I hope that reading this will make you take that half second to think before you speak when someone is experiencing a crisis.
And I would say honestly that this post isn’t even really for the people who have said the wrong things. It is for the people who have experienced trauma themselves. The other people who have heard these things. I want you to know: you are not alone. I’m not going to go all number 4 on you…I don’t know what your loss was like. But I know what you’re dealing with others was like.
And I’ll share a little secret with you. Do you know what the absolute BEST thing is you can say to someone in a traumatic situation?
Not a single, blessed word.
If you want to help, sit down beside me and don’t speak or ask me to. If you want to help, grab my hand and pull me up out of the mud enough to breathe. If you want to help, don’t put holes in my boat with your words…hop in and help me paddle through the storm and safely to the other side.
When I am as convicted over something as I have been over this…I write a song. I hope you enjoy it.