I have had a lot of reflection over something that happens to me almost daily. In the midst of tragedy…there is always this awkward moment when people want to know the state of things, while not quite knowing how to ask. I have plenty of experience in “doing it wrong”. When a dear friend of mine’s father-in-law died, and I was on the phone with him while he drove his family to the funeral, without knowing what to say I blurted: “Oh my gosh, how is Sarah (wife who’s dad just died)”? How was she supposed to be? She was crushed, broken, confused, swirling, and sobbing at that exact moment! Yet I did not have the foresight to pause and construct a statement that effectively communicated my concern and love for them. I wish I had. I regret that moment.
Luckily, my friend forgave me for my polite ignorance. It has taught me an invaluable lesson that sometimes the “HOW” question is a very painful one. It doesn’t change the fact that we really do want to know “HOW” they are. We often neglect to think through how a question with a painful obvious answer might come across to the person we are asking.
To save you from the same feelings I had with my poorly aimed question…here are 5 suggestions:
1) Often, not questions, but rather your presence, is really what they need.
2) A well crafted statement often communicates the intent you have. For example, rather than asking a friend who’s mom is battling cancer: “How is your dad?” Perhaps better would be a statement like: “I’m sure this is so confusing for you, your family, and especially your Dad. Know that I love you, and am praying and grieving with you”.
3) Don’t misunderstand GRIEVING. Grieving is healthy and Biblical. If someone appears or even answers: “I’m grieving”, don’t see them as weird…see them as responding well.
4) If you sense yourself just wanting details…be highly aware how painful details can be for the person you are asking. Remember, this is far more about them than it is about you.
5) If you have recently been a “HOW” asker, don’t be too hard on yourself. Your heart is in the right place. Take a look at the previous 4 and try a follow up encouragement to the person who is in need of the very thing you genuinely want to give: Love and Support.
~Deep thoughts from a Shallow Guy~