Avoid “Fair-Weather” Friends

“When we can honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean most to us, we often find that they are those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness–that is a friend who cares.” ~ Henri J. M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude … 

Pain, suffering, grieving, and loss are so difficult to experience and deal with in our lives, and yet, are integral parts of it, for we all face it–whether personally or through those we love. And because of the overwhelming burden it places on us when we go through it alone, most of us seek the help and company of others. But sometimes our friends and loved ones can inadvertently make things worse by trying to fix things and give us advice, when what we really desire and need is a someone to listen to us, to comfort us and just be there for us and with us while we try to cope with and deal with things on our own terms.

Of course, most of us do not wish to make matters worse for those we care about–we truly have authentic concern and compassion and simply want to be there for them when they are experiencing pain. And that is why it is important that while we seek ways in which to help and be there for others, we stay aware of the fact that everyone is unique and responds differently to others help, and what works for us might not work for this person in their particular situation or at this point in their life. Perhaps their personality responds best to humor and laughter or trying to keep things lighthearted. Maybe this person needs to write down their feelings and emotions and spend time processing them and thinking them through. Or maybe he or she needs a caring soul–someone to listen to them so that they can pass off some of the burden and weight that they are carrying around.

During our times of pain and suffering, so many of us simply need an emotional connection in life, someone who can remind us that we are not alone and are feelings are part of the tapestry of humanity. I want to be a part of this emotional connection with those I love–to be there for the people I care about when they need me, and to know that they are there for me, too, when I need them. And the beautiful thing is that in doing so, we do not necessarily have to give them our advice, fix anything, or show them a path towards healing–often times all that is needed is our compassion, company, understanding, and love–the perfect medicine for those in pain.

Extend mercy and compassion by spending time with someone who is experiencing pain and suffering in their life.

Questions to consider:

Why do we tend to want to give advice and tell people what they should do when they are dealing with problems?

How can we remind ourselves to stay quiet and simply listen when our loved ones need someone to hear them?

Who in your life is someone who is there for you when you need them, without trying to tell you how to solve your problems?

For further thought:

“Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.” ~ Margaret Lee Runbeck, Answer Without Ceasing

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