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How to Help a Hurting Human – the “Dos”

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a year that has engendered a lot of pain in a lot of people. Furthermore, the holidays are now approaching quickly, and many people struggle during the holiday season during years that are otherwise not quite as  challenging as 2020 has been. Without a doubt, you know someone who is hurting, and most likely, you’ll be getting some practice on what to do and not to do when interacting with them, and I want to help set you up for success.

Last week, we covered four “don’ts,” things we should avoid doing when interacting with a friend who is hurting. This week, I’m sharing a few “dos” to help you and the person you’re communicating with navigate potentially difficult discussions, so you come away feeling like you honored them and didn’t add to their pain, and they feel like you added value to their life (or at least didn’t make it worse!). Here are three things you can do:

DO

Listen. When someone talks to you about their trials, whether the trials are physical, emotional spiritual, relational, etc., just listen. You don’t actually have to say much. You can let them know you’re listening by occasionally telling them some version of “I’m with you.” Or you can ensure they know they still have your attention by making eye contact (preferably not with glazed-over eyes). Nod and/or make sympathetic noises. Occasionally confirm that you understand by saying a version of, “It sounds like you’re saying ______________, is that right?” You’ve got this: speak less, listen more.

DO

Minimize Your Exposure

  • If you can’t resist minimizing the other person’s issues, minimize your time with them. You can do this tactfully, if you try, and it may preserve your friendship. We can’t stay in the mud with someone else forever. However, I urge caution here: if you value the person and the relationship, don’t abandon them. Just make the visits farther between and shorter. I have recently discovered the value of scheduling particularly challenging people to meet at a location an hour before it closes. Disclaimer: It doesn’t mean that’s always the case when I schedule late appointments – sometimes it’s because I only have an hour and I really want to spend some time with the other person, even if we have to be brief. But this scenario takes me out of the hot seat for finding a way to end the conversation if I simply cannot endure much of it and I don’t want to further tax an already-hurting person’s feelings.

DO

Steer Them Toward Help

  • Sometimes the other person’s crisis lasts a long time. Hopefully, if this is the case, they will seek professional help, or, as I’ve referred to it, hire a “rent-a-friend.” There have been seasons in my life when it began to feel to me (and most likely to my friends as well) that I was sucking the life out of my friends by dwelling on the negativity in my life every time I was around them. I realized I needed a “rent-a-friend” to listen and help me sort out my junk before my friends wisely jumped ship and renting a friend was the only way I’d have one.  There is no shame in finding a qualified counselor to help us when we’re in a rut, and it may well save the relationships we value and hope to still be a part of when the darkness abates and the sun comes out again (and it will come out again).
  • If you are close enough to the hurting person and their issues have been going on a while or you think they’re sinking in quicksand, AND if you can do so from a place of love and concern for their best interest, you may be able to recommend they find a counselor.
    • Before you take this on, be very honest with yourself about your role in the person’s life. As a counselor, it would not bother me if someone I know loves me told me they feel like it may be time for me to seek help from a counselor. That said, not everyone in my life has earned the right to speak into my life at the same level.
    • Be gentle, loving and cautious with your words. Getting professional help can be very scary and may make your friend defensive if they’re uncomfortable/unfamiliar with counseling. They may feel like you’re calling them crazy and pretty much no one wants to hear that. Employ wisdom and loads of grace and love here.
    • If you’re a super-duper-amazing friend, and you’re in their inner circle, you may even come to this conversation with the names and numbers of a couple of counselors you’ve researched, who seem reputable and seem to share the other person’s values.

I hope these pointers help you breathe a little easier and enhance your relationships by equipping you with (or reminding you of) some ways you can best be there for those you care about who are going through a rough season in their lives.

Keep in mind, you’ve probably been that person at one time or another, and you may yet bet that person in the coming weeks. Wouldn’t it be nice if the people you talk to, especially your closer friends, had these tools in their pockets, too? Well, they can; feel free to like and share last week’s post and this one!

I look forward to reading your additional suggestions in the comments!

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How to Help a Hurting Human – The “Don’ts”

There is a LOT going on in the world right now. I know you know this, but I mention it because a byproduct of this truth is that people are struggling. Lots of them. Struggling HARD. I guarantee that at least some of them are in your sphere of influence, and there are some points that bear mentioning now and then when it comes to interacting with someone who is hurting.

So, I thought I’d share some dos and don’ts to help. You probably are aware of some or even all of these, but a refresher might be timely, particularly with the holidays approaching.

While I’m only scratching the surface, this post was a bit long, so I split it into two posts. This week, for brevity, I’ll share four “don’ts” with you, and three “dos” next week. So, without further ado, the “don’ts” (see how I did that?) …

DON’T

Tell them it could be worse. 

  • It is doubtful that any of us has ever encountered an adult who doesn’t fully understand that “it could always be worse,” so don’t say that. Or any version of it. When people come to me with troubles, they often tell me early on some variation of “I know it could be worse,” or, “I know it’s not the worst thing in the world that can happen,” or, “I know others who have it worse than I do, but …” and frankly it bothers me that people have become so accustomed to other people’s callousness that they feel they need to minimize their own problems in order to appear rational.
    • While I suppose it’s healthy to acknowledge that whatever is bothering us is, in fact, not the worst problem any human has ever experienced, it is nonetheless the situation we are in at this moment, and it’s a legitimate problem for us or we wouldn’t be talking about it.
    • (Also, I wonder if sometimes people don’t say it as a preemptive strike, so they don’t have to endure hearing it from the other person).
  • Let’s face it: it’s an insult to the hurting person’s intelligence and it often comes across as, “yeah, yeah, yeah … cut to the chase, and get happy already because I’m uncomfortable with your discomfort.”

DON’T

Say “At least…”

  • If at some point in the conversation with a hurting person you feel compelled to allow yourself to say anything starting with, “At least…” STOP YOURSELF. Bite your tongue as hard as you have to, but DON’T SAY IT. Examples:
    • “At least today’s better than yesterday.” This can come across as, “Wow! So, you’re good now! What a relief for me!”
    • “At least it’s only going to cost you $300 instead of $1000.” That $300 is big potatoes or they probably wouldn’t be bothered about it. There have been times in my life when $300 might as well have been $5,000. Allow for their perception of the issue.
    • “At least it’s fixable.” They probably are aware of this, but the waiting time for the fix may feel like an eternity. Maybe they’ll be in a lot of pain until then. Maybe the fix comes with its own scary challenges.
    • “At least you’re not alone.” Nope, they’re not – they have you, dear friend, so be good to them and don’t assume you know what their other relationships are like. They chose you to be vulnerable with. Don’t teach them they can’t be.
  • Almost anything coming after “at least” is going to minimize their issue, and here’s another truth: many, many people find it far more difficult to express their feelings than to ignore or minimize them. In other words, they are very likely needing someone who doesn’t need them to minimize their struggles for the other person’s comfort or attention span.

DON’T

Trivialize, Even Accidentally.

  • Do not quote Romans 8:28 unless they are a brand-new believer and there is a genuine possibility they don’t actually already know this. Just don’t.
  • Do not tell them “This, too, shall pass.” Yuck.
  • Do not tell them “It will get better.” Yuck again.
  • All of the above convey that you don’t have the patience to listen to them, you don’t care or don’t want to be bothered with their problems, that they need to “suck it up and move on,” or that they’re not the sharpest crayon in the box. Just don’t do it.

DON’T

Play Mr./Ms. Fix It.

  • Do not feel like you need to fix the problem. This one has been around so long and is so obvious that I will not belabor it. As a refresher, just remember that usually your friend just needs to feel heard. Most often, they will make it abundantly clear if they want your advice. Maybe you have to wait until the end of their “rant” for them to ask, “What do you think/What would you do?” but that’s okay. It often helps us sort out our own issues when we simply process them aloud.
  • If you’re in doubt about whether they want your help or just a listening ear, ask them. If you’re uncomfortable with this, just know that many people value this type of clarification and most likely the other person will feel like you’re actually interested in the conversation. You add value to them by asking what they need from you rather than assuming what they need (you’re terrific and all, but not everyone wants or needs to be “rescued” or “fixed,” and your perspective on how you’d handle the problem may or may not actually be a good fit for them).

I look forward to your other recommendations in the comments!

Be sure to check out next week’s Monday Moment at the Well for part two, the “dos,” where I’ll share a juicy nugget I have figured out when dealing with a hurting person who I need to spend less time with.

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The Chains I Chose

Self-condemnation is a place where I’ve spent too much time. Maybe you can relate? I have been living in my heart with the same attitude toward myself I had back then, before I began passionately pursuing the heart of Christ. I have been merely existing, feeling shackled to condemnation, isolation, and “never-good-enough-ness.” I’ve been standing at the back of the room desperately wanting to be near my Savior, and at the same time fearful he would notice me and scorn me.

Mercifully, God has been working with me to help me see the truth; in large part that I am not the same woman I was 15-20 years ago and beyond (or even yesterday). He is showing me that she – the old me – is gone, along with the old life, and that a new life has begun (1 Cor. 5:17)!

One of the chains that Christ wants to break in your life is the one that keeps you bound to thinking you are still the person you were before you surrendered your life to him!

The enemy would be all too happy for us to choose to chain ourselves to our sin and shame. He’d thrill to know that we choose to keep our focus on what has been, rather than on what God says will be; on who we once were rather than the person God says we are now!

See, those chains were broken the moment we acknowledged that Jesus is the Son of God, and that we, as sinners, need him to save us from ourselves, from sin, and from our greatest foe. So why on Earth have I chosen to hold onto them for so long?!

I want to live free, and I can’t do that if I let the ghost of who I used to be hold me hostage daily!

If you can relate all too well to this, I urge you to pray the following courageous prayer with me:

God, search my heart, and I pray that you would find the good in me and help me to see it, too, for You, in your boundless generosity and grace, created me in Your image. You have molded me over the years, taking every good and every bad experience, and made me who I am today:  a broken but beautiful, flawed but forgiven, weak but washed in the blood of the Lamb, person who loves you – and is loved by you – passionately! Lord, forgive me for submitting to the enemy of my soul and gazing into the pool of shame he has shown me for far too long. Today and every day, help me choose to keep my eyes focused forward and upward, wherever YOU are! Amen!

I Was Drowning

Before Christ saved me, I was drowning. Flailing, sputtering, sinking, choking and utterly helpless to save myself.

Then he came. He put his arm around me, but as so many people who are drowning do, I resisted my rescuer.

Why is it that drowning people so often do this? They (we) tend to struggle against those who would protect us and lead us to safety, even though they are perhaps the only thing between us and certain death. It’s about fear. It’s about losing control.

In order for him to save me, I had to surrender to him. I had to stop fighting. I had to give him total control. I had to let go and be still and let him rescue me, pull me to safety, completely dependent on him.

Lord, I thank you for being my rescuer. I pray that every time I find myself in over my head, I will surrender to you, giving you control and trusting you completely. And God? I’m sorry for all the times I make you work so hard, and for the times I resist you. Amen.

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Small Things

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m not doing much in the kingdom of God. I’ve been a bit down about this; I want to be doing big things and I feel like I’m doing much of nothing.

Then I got a card in the mail the other day from a friend, and it made a big difference in my day!  I haven’t been feeling well, and for that moment I felt not just okay, but special, loved, valued.

When I thought about how that card made me feel, I remembered that I’ve had people tell me when they’ve received something in the mail from me that it “came at just the right time,” and a light bulb went on for me! Maybe, just maybe, God has been using me in ways He can use me, particularly in these crazy times of physical distancing!

Never underestimate how God is using you. We don’t have to move mountains to move a heart.

And isn’t that what really matters?

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other … if we love each other, God lives in us and His love is brought to full expression in us.” – 1 John 4:11-12

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Sticky Fingers

Surrender sounds easy, doesn’t it? 

I mean, it’s putting down something, unburdening.  It’s the opposite of striving. 

Most of us get pretty attached to things, often without intending to, and if you’ve tried surrendering, you probably already know how hard it really is.  It’s some of the most challenging work we’ll ever do.  (And some of the most important.)

I’m a crafter, and as God tends to do, He used one of my passions to make a point with me (maybe this has happened to you?):

When I’m playing around in my craft room, I often get glue on my fingers, and if I don’t get it all off, suddenly I touch something and it sticks to my fingers.  I imagine life is like that sometimes.  We reach for a thing and it gets stuck to our hands.  A dream.  A goal.  A job.  A relationship. 

Before we know it, there are so many things stuck to us that if God tried to give us a gift, a person, or a purpose, it would slide right out of our grasp, and we couldn’t receive it.

It takes effort to surrender all that stuff.  We have to consciously peel our hands away from the things that we become glued to and lay them aside.  It’s hard, and sometimes painful.  But wow, do my hands feel better without a bunch of junk stuck to them!  I can wash them and open them up before the Lord and receive whatever He chooses to give me. 

What do you need to peel your hands away from today?  What do you need to surrender?  Don’t be afraid!  God always has better gifts for us than we could ever dream of!

So go ahead, start peeling.  Start unsticking yourself from all those things that keep you from receiving God’s best for you!

I pray that as you let go and surrender to Him, that He gives you peace and rest and a sense of sweet release. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Hope is a Choice

If you know me you probably know that I believe everything we do, where we find ourselves in life, the people who are in our lives . . . all are the result of choices we made.  It took me a long time to accept this truth (because I’ve made some colossally unhealthy choices in my life) and now I “preach” it often. 

Our choices lead us to people, places and situations in life, and they are almost always choices we have consciously made.  Furthermore, we are responsible for choosing our responses to people, events and circumstances.  Accepting that our choices are ours alone, and taking responsibility for the harmful ones as well as the healthy ones, is vital to our growth.

Recently, I gave a talk to a group of women about choices – taking responsibility for them and making healthy ones.  A couple of days later God used my own words to snap me out of a very dark place I was [choosing to be] stuck in.  I had been going through a major season of struggle and felt like I was losing.  I finally came completely untethered in my prayer time one morning and was railing at God through my tears of hurt and anger, and yelled out to Him that I was tired of hoping and being disappointed, and “why should I bother to keep hoping anyway?!” And you know what He graciously said? 

God’s response: “Hope is a choice.”

That pretty much stopped me dead in my tracks. 

I made the healthy choice.  The circumstances haven’t changed.  The answers haven’t come.  The waiting continues.  But choosing hope – sometimes multiple times a day – has made it easier to be where I am, in the uncertainty and the often uneasy stillness.  Choosing hope gives me the courage to dare to look forward to whatever God has in store for me and to rest in the knowledge that it will be good because He is good.

Of course, I can’t post something about choices or about hope without saying that we can also choose whether or not we respond to God’s call on our life, be it to salvation, a career, a geographical location, or whatever.  If you want to talk to me about that choice, and about the ultimate Source of hope, please message me and I’d be honored to talk to you about this.

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My Buoy in the Storm

For those who are where I am (that is, in a terribly awkward state of transition), or have been, or will be – and you’re most certainly one of the three – here is part of an uncomfortable story with a happy ending, though the author doesn’t yet know what it is.

Who am I now?  Now that I’m no longer a student, and I have no traditionally “meaningful” way to fill my days in this season of waiting? Waiting, readers, is not passive as many of you know. Waiting can take everything out of a person.

God, “my soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me (Psalm 63:8).” I wait for You.  Not as gracefully or patiently as I would like, but I wait.  For You.

What I know for sure is that there is no cure for it.  I must ride out these stormy seas and stay afloat by hanging on for dear life to the buoy I know to be trustworthy – Jesus the Christ.  I know he is trustworthy because I recently made myself, in a moment of doubt and despair, write a list of times I know God has shown up for me (I highly recommend this exercise!).  And thus I know this season will not last forever, as none ever do, and that Jesus will be my shelter in the storm, if I let him.

I may endure the storm spluttering, gasping for breath.  I may emerge bruised and bedraggled.  I know I’m not doing it the way I tell myself I should – surfing flawlessly atop the waves with a broad smile on my face, mascara intact – and I have no idea how others think I should weather this storm (and frankly, I have no energy left for that).  Possibly – probably – if I were at some heightened level of spirituality, I would endure this season with more grace.  But I will endure it, with God’s grace.  And when I come to dry land, and Jesus helps me to my feet, my legs will be stronger, my spirit more solid, and the light within me not put out – but burning brighter, so that someday, God willing, I can help someone else find the shoreline.

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Practical Steps to Finding Your Purpose

Trying to figure out who you are, what you’re meant to be, and do? I believe the below exercises from my personal experience can help you!

Take a moment at the end of each day to ask yourself what during the day made you feel most alive, closest to God.  This next bit is important: write it down

Then take a few moments at the end of the week – I usually do this on Saturday before my weekend sweeps me away – and see if you can remember what those moments were.

What moments during the week stand out to you the most as you consider what left you feeling energized and connected to God?  They probably spring to mind fairly easily. 

Now look at your notes from the end of each day.  Which ones did you remember before you looked? Those are important, so make a special note of those on a separate sheet, or highlight them. 

Which moments slipped your mind?  How energized do they make you feel now, looking back on them?  If they don’t really spark anything, maybe you can let them go a bit, or save them for future contemplation.  If they merely slipped your mind but now that you see them you can’t understand how they escaped your memory, highlight them. 

Over time, continue to check this list and see what types of activities and situations continually feel fulfilling, energizing and leave you feeling closer and more intimately connected with God.

These may give you important guidance toward your “calling”!

I’d love to hear/read about any insights you gain from this exercise (which will, of course, take a bit of time, so be patient)!

If you need further help with this, or other help navigating your spiritual development, I’d be honored to help.  Just contact me at AngelaGlickLifeCoach@gmail.com!

Photo credit: ID 74060492 © Marek Uliasz | Dreamstime.com

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Gauge Your Goals!

So.  How are those New Year’s resolutions going, now that we’re a few weeks into the new year?  Are you scoring 100% success on the goals you set?  If so, huge congrats to you!  Take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a gold star (really – I do this sometimes)!  But this post may not interest you – yet, anyway.  Come back in a month or two if you need to.

For the rest of us – the ones who are coming close but not quite nailing it the way we want to, or those of us who are really struggling to meet our goals, or even those who don’t remember what their goals were – I have a couple of reassuring thoughts to share.  They’re ideas you are probably already aware of, but sometimes we need someone to remind us . . .

  • Reevaluate.  Consistently and frequently re-evaluate your goals.  I do this every couple of weeks anyway, and again at the end of the month, to keep myself from getting too far off track.  If you’re really frustrated and your goals are so overwhelming at this point that you don’t even want to review them, it’s likely that you have overestimated your time and capacity for meeting your goals.  Take a deep breath and remember that it’s okay!  This is totally fixable!  Tell your ego to hush and let you think . . .  
  • Reclaim.  Make sure the goals you set are your goals, not goals you think you should set because of outside influences.  Be careful that you set goals that you can take full ownership of, that you are motivated to work toward; and know your “why” behind each goal or set of goals. 
  • Resize.  Consider downscaling the goal.  Breathe.  It’s okay!  Downscaling takes courage for some of us!  It’s easy to be caught up in the “new year, new you” mindset and be overly ambitious right out of the gate, then look at our goals and think we must have been crazy for setting them or feel completely overwhelmed and want to throw in the towel.  Don’t give up!  It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. 
    For exampl
    e, if I set out to read one book per month but school is taking more time than I anticipated this semester, or work has gotten crazy busy and looks like it’ll stay that way for a while, I might need to set a goal of one book every two months.  Or maybe I simply need to let myself off the hook for that January book, read what I can, and try again next month.  This is not the same as quitting!
  • Reset.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, set your chin, square your shoulders, and start working toward your shiny new/newly revised and more achievable goals!  (Andpat yourself on the back for adulting like a boss!)
  • Reflect.  Set a reminder on your calendar or your to-do list (or both!) to come back and review your goals regularly, as it works best for you.  Maybe it’s monthly, maybe quarterly, or more often if you need to (and can do so without slipping into perfectionism).  It’s easier to make tiny adjustments than huge ones, so don’t go too long without checking in with your goals for making your hopes and dreams become reality!  And you may even want to bookmark this post or save it somewhere for future reference.
  • Reach out.  If you’re struggling with goal-setting and/or maintaining your goals and you want some help, contact me for a bit of coaching to set you on the right track for your unique needs!

Remember:  there is no shame, only wisdom, in recognizing you’ve overestimated your time and/or capacity for the goals you’ve set, or that life has changed and so must your goals.  By doing this, you can set yourself up for a happy year-end review that enables you to congratulate yourself for learning to set achievable goals, learning to be flexible without breaking (quitting), and making trackable progress toward your long-term goals, rather than having that twinge in your gut when you have to chalk up another year of not effectively moving in the direction in which you want to take your life.

Image Credit: ShortStatusQuotes