“I Know How You Feel” and Other Stupid Things We Say

I was reminded this week by my sister-in-law of a conversation we had when my brother, her husband, was undergoing chemo and radiation. It struck me again last evening as I was having yogurt with one of my incredible granddaughters and discussing a difficult situation for her.

As Christians, friends and anyone wanting to help, we can make some really stupid and hurting comments while thinking we are helping. One of the most used and at the same time ridiculous statements I have made, while wanting to sound caring and understanding is, “I know how you feel.”

That statement ranks up there with, “Yea, I’ve been right where you are.”

On some occasions, as the words so eloquently passed my lips, I found myself wanting to grab them back before anyone could actually hear them.

The tragedy of the statements is our intentions and hearts are often well meaning, but we are betrayed by our words.

Yesterday, my thought went back to a little over a year ago when one of my close friends and brother in the Lord very suddenly went to be with our Lord. In a tearful conversation with his wife and my sister in the Lord, I told her to prepare her heart in the midst of her grief and pain. Sooner rather than later, someone with good intentions would say something very stupid and hurtful to her.

It did not take very long for those words to ring true. One morning she came to volunteer at our offices and was holding back the tears. Sure enough, the “wanting to help but stupid comment” had overflowed from a friend and she was crushed. All she could say is “Why would they say that to me?”

The response I am desperately trying to have at the appropriate time is, “I do not know how you feel and the pain you are going through at this time; yet, I care for you and will do whatever I can to help you.”

That is an easier and far more honest statement for me. There are too many times I told someone “I know how you feel,” only to walk away saying to myself, “ I cannot imagine how they feel and what they are going through at this time.”

This issue is very significant for me when I have the opportunity to speak with younger men and women – and it seems most of the people I speak with are younger these days.

From generation to generation and from circumstances to circumstances, everyone is different; and how we feel and respond is different.

Most people I know are not asking me to feel their pain. They need me to acknowledge the validity of their pain and care enough not to make them feel guilty because they have pain.

We must also be very careful not to judge the person for the grief or pain they are feeling. As I was accurately told, we all process differently.

Last night, with an incredible young lady, I did not have any answers; and I did not tell her I knew how she felt.

Instead, I bought her some yogurt and listened to an amazingly-mature 13 year old granddaughter who is light years ahead of me in many ways.

We do not need to know or pretend we know how a person really feels to be their friend and maybe – just be a friend indeed.

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