What Not to Say When Your Friends Are Hurting

How you might be using a new kind of profanity and not even know it.

"I know you feel alone, but remember, you are never alone because God is always with you."

Why do we do that? Why do we respond to someone's vulnerability and present experience in this way?

We often say such things when we don't know what to say. Or when we really don't care enough to get involved. When we want the tense moment to pass so we can move on. As true as the above reply may be, when used that way we are disrespecting a moment of connection. That person likely presently feels physically and emotionally alone.

Eternal Truths were never to be used like smoke-bomb escape techniques or a magician's trap door. They are to be held as holy and communicated with veneration. We should never say them simply because we don’t know what to say.

Eternal Truths were never to be used like smoke-bomb escape techniques. We should never say them simply because we don’t know what to say.

”I Will Pray for You.”

Prayer is far too great an intimately holy gift to reduce to a get-out-of-the-moment free card. Don't say you will if you won't. Pray with them right then. Or ask how you can pray for them.

”You Should Read This Verse.”

The Bible is certainly is a Living Word, but proof-texting someone's pain is simply poor form. You should be looking to be living reference to the Truths in Scripture, not using Scripture to pass someone off.

”God Has Something Better Planned.”

God does not owe us anything. He may have something far worse in store—and that has to be OK too. There is a reason Job is the oldest book of the Bible. Instead of shifting attention to an unknown future, help them see God at work in the present experience.

”God Won't Give You More Than You Can Handle.”

That is simply not true. Many experience far more than they can handle alone. Drawn from 1 Corinthians 10:13, not only is this verse specifically about temptation but has a corporate context. Sometimes people need help. If you find yourself saying this they are probably asking for help from you.

”You are Not Alone Because God is Always With You.”

Again, true, but if someone is expressing a profound loneliness they are looking to you to help lessen it and learn to know God's sustaining presence. Too much of our theology is dismissive of the here and now. Be present in the moment with them.

”Everything Happens for a Reason.”

This well-meaning statement may have become the most "nothing" response to a painful situation. It does not mean anything and is clearly said more to alleviate not knowing what to say than their pain. Resist the urge to dodge the moment or provide something that sounds like an answer. Know that just being there is often enough.

When we force "capital 'T'" truths into the "lowercase 't'" truths of someone's present experience we squeeze out their humanity—making both feel like a lie.

Sacred Truths were never meant to cover up or hide the truths of what someone is experiencing in the here and now. It makes a person's present experience feel pointless and meaningless, amplifying loneliness or frustration.

Vulnerable moments are sacred spaces to be treated with the utmost reverence and respect.

Irreverent to both the Truths we intend to share and the person we are commanded to love, it's sacrilege. In that respect, more than lame platitudes, such statements become a new kind of profanity. “Profane” can be defined as “to treat something sacred with irreverence or disrespect.”

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Vulnerable moments are sacred spaces to be treated with the utmost reverence and respect. We far too often desecrate it with christianese graffiti, recklessly applying theology we misunderstand and treating it like a method to be applied to a solvable situation.

Better someone offer up a traditional four-letter “swear word” out of shared lament than reduce deeply held beliefs into platitudes thrown at pain. We should find this type of profanity far more offensive and treat it accordingly.

When you say such things in this profane manner your impulse should be to throw your hand over your mouth and apologize profusely as if you just let an “F-bomb” slip out at the most inappropriate time. If you find yourself dropping this new profanity, stop, apologize and begin again.

So, the next time someone dismissively “encourages” you to wrestle through this season in the journey God has you on, tell them to watch their mouth. I'll get the soap.

Top Comments

Joseph Horta

27

Joseph Horta commented…

Though I understand and from experience can see what this article is saying... It doesn't sit right and IMO Relevant has far too many pieces like this one which proposes the "right" way to be or has this need to criticize what some Christians say/do that annoys the author featured and gives likeminded people validation.

Listen not everyone has reached the same place on the path as others. I know I haven't arrived and sometimes all a Christian can say is "I will pray for you". Not all Christians have majored in communications or pastoral studies... So behind that "I will pray for you" is an obedient child of God attempting to be sincere and loving. That is possible right? And if God is the catalyst maybe that is all that is needed. The "right" words or response is really unknown by us. At times we don't know what else we SHOULD say that passes the Christian "enlightened" test. I suggest in the moment to just be obedient and trust that God can fill in the gaps.

I think we need to be more careful to not become a bunch of polished smart Christians hyper-critical of other Christians based on a judgement that paints their effort as self-serving. Sounds a lot like what Jesus railed against while addressing the Pharisees of Israel.

Kim David Geiger

1

Kim David Geiger commented…

If we say anything, it should just be, "I love you". However, a silent hug is probably the best thing.

31 Comments

Kim David Geiger

1

Kim David Geiger commented…

If we say anything, it should just be, "I love you". However, a silent hug is probably the best thing.

Dorothy Greco

98

Dorothy Greco commented…

So appreciate this paragraph: Eternal Truths were never to be used like smoke-bomb escape techniques or a magician's trap door. They are to be held as holy and communicated with veneration. We should never say them simply because we don’t know what to say. Thank you!!

Ray Hartsfield

60

Ray Hartsfield commented…

Over the past few years, I've learned a lot about what it means to connect with hurting people. My wife and I write a blog about recovering from infidelity, and people often contact us to talk about it. I love the sense of connectedness, and I think it's so vital for people who have faced trauma to be able to feel like they aren't alone.

Check out our site...
www.themeaningofrepentance.com

Joseph Horta

27

Joseph Horta commented…

Though I understand and from experience can see what this article is saying... It doesn't sit right and IMO Relevant has far too many pieces like this one which proposes the "right" way to be or has this need to criticize what some Christians say/do that annoys the author featured and gives likeminded people validation.

Listen not everyone has reached the same place on the path as others. I know I haven't arrived and sometimes all a Christian can say is "I will pray for you". Not all Christians have majored in communications or pastoral studies... So behind that "I will pray for you" is an obedient child of God attempting to be sincere and loving. That is possible right? And if God is the catalyst maybe that is all that is needed. The "right" words or response is really unknown by us. At times we don't know what else we SHOULD say that passes the Christian "enlightened" test. I suggest in the moment to just be obedient and trust that God can fill in the gaps.

I think we need to be more careful to not become a bunch of polished smart Christians hyper-critical of other Christians based on a judgement that paints their effort as self-serving. Sounds a lot like what Jesus railed against while addressing the Pharisees of Israel.

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