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    Things not to say to someone going through a hard time

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    Rohelf

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    Things not to say to someone going through a hard time

    Post  Rohelf on April 28th 2018, 6:12 pm

    "It could be worse."

    Yes, it could. It can always be worse, because there is no bottom to human misery. You could lose your home, your job, your family, and everything you own, and it could still be worse, because you could be sick to boot. And even if you’re already sick, you could always be sicker. It can always get worse, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t already awful.

    "God is trying to tell you something."

    I don’t want to hear it. And no, I don’t care if that’s the “wrong” answer. Imagine if I broke into your house in the middle of the night and started smashing every breakable thing I could find. Then, whenever you stumble out of bed and confront me, horrified, I announce, “Good! Now I’ve definitely got your attention and can tell you something very important!” Would you give one crap what I had to say? Or would you wonder how I could possibly think that this was the best way to get your attention, much less favorably incline you towards my words? If the latter, congratulations, you’re smarter than some people think God is.

    "God has a plan to turn this into something good."

    Once again, don’t want to hear it, don’t care. If I told you that your suffering a horrible car accident that would physically and financially damage you for years would somehow change three strangers’ lives for the better, you still probably wouldn’t want to be in that car wreck… and that’s even assuming you believed me. Whatever might happen next doesn’t mitigate the suffering that exists now, and if God is as smart as he should be, he ought to be able to figure out a way to order the universe that doesn’t require ruining Person A’s life in order to help Persons B, C, and D.

    "Let me tell you some Bible verses about your problem."

    Yeah, let me just hit you back with James 2:16 on that. Even if you can’t offer any concrete help, just some basic empathy and an acknowledgement that what the other person is going through really is crappy and unfair is better than parroting hollow pieties or unsupportable promises.

    "Cheer up! Your attitude is the real problem."

    Is it really? Let’s try a fun experiment to find out. I’ll hit you with this aluminum baseball bat, and you do your best not to scream or cry. Great job! Now, is the real problem that you “let” yourself feel shock, pain, and anger, or is it that I’ve fractured your leg? Still not sure? We could try a few more swings. Or you could just refrain from commanding people to emote unless you’re a director on set.

    Why do people keep saying these things? I suck at human interaction and even I can do better.
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    Re: Things not to say to someone going through a hard time

    Post  AdamCollings on April 29th 2018, 6:40 pm

    Well said.
    I wouldn't want to hear these catch-phrases if I was going through a hard time. It all comes across as a bit self-superior, doesn't it.
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    Re: Things not to say to someone going through a hard time

    Post  Reed Benson on April 29th 2018, 6:58 pm

    I think most would agree that listening is better than talking when someone's going through hard times.
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    Re: Things not to say to someone going through a hard time

    Post  jorowi on April 30th 2018, 9:33 am

    You left out "God works in mysterious ways."


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    Re: Things not to say to someone going through a hard time

    Post  Paeter on April 30th 2018, 10:41 am

    Reed Benson wrote:I think most would agree that listening is better than talking when someone's going through hard times.
    Ditto on this. People are rarely if ever genuinely struggling with an intellectual puzzle about the philosophical "whys" of their own suffering while they are still in the middle of it. Silent listening and/or expressing sympathy are often about the best we can do in those times when the pain is active or still fresh.


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    Re: Things not to say to someone going through a hard time

    Post  Rohelf on May 2nd 2018, 10:13 am

    Well, then, here's the million dollar question: since it seems like everyone here understands that these things are not helpful to say, why do so many people persist in saying them?
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    Re: Things not to say to someone going through a hard time

    Post  jorowi on May 2nd 2018, 10:49 am

    Rohelf wrote:Well, then, here's the million dollar question: since it seems like everyone here understands that these things are not helpful to say, why do so many people persist in saying them?

    Our society tells us that silence is bad. In fact, silence is sometimes the best thing. God was silent for thousands of years as atrocities were committed in His name. Silence makes it seem like we don't care. It made it seem like God didn't care.

    So what do we do? Our lizard brains immediately respond with something we've heard dozens, if not hundreds of times. It's in the media we consume, the sermons we hear, and pervades the culture. We must say/do something, otherwise, WE DON'T CARE.

    I'll shut up now.


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    Re: Things not to say to someone going through a hard time

    Post  Paeter on May 2nd 2018, 12:21 pm

    Rohelf wrote:Well, then, here's the million dollar question: since it seems like everyone here understands that these things are not helpful to say, why do so many people persist in saying them?

    It's such a case by case thing. I think it's often related to timing. There are times and situations when it IS important for someone who has been hurt to know that God has a plan and that he can take tragedy and turn it into something good. There's also a time and circumstance to bring the Bible into the situation. But figuring out when is the difficulty. For some people, this time comes much earlier than for others. For some people, they'll just never want to hear any of those things. It's easy to misread a situation and assume that someone in pain is ready to hear something they are not.

    After a friend lost their toddler to cancer, I spent time talking to a man in our church who lost his teenage son, to see if I could gain any insight on how to help or comfort my friend. The death of his teenage son nearly destroyed his marriage and his life. He eventually attended a Bible-based group called Grief Share, but it took awhile before he was willing. Looking back on it years later he told me that his advice to someone in a similar situation would be to NOT wait, and attend a group like that as soon as possible even if they don't feel ready, as it was instrumental in bringing him healing. So some people are ready, some people aren't, some people think they aren't but they really are and some will never be open to those things. It's as complex as people are.

    And the poop cherry on the cheesecake is the age of social media and text-based communication. Whether facebook, e-mail or texting, we communicate a lot via text format, which doesn't communicate tone or pacing. So a rhetorical question expressing grief or frustration can be misinterpreted as an ACTUAL question, triggering an answer the "questioner" wasn't really asking for in the first place. Compound that with the problem that a text-based response often fails to convey any emotion of sympathy the responder genuinely feels, and their answer can easily come across as uncaring, unsolicited advice at the worst possible time. And of course the expected brevity of comments in text-based communication makes communication seem even more over-simplified.

    My extended family recently came to the conclusion that we need to call each other a bit more often instead of texting, since the absence of tone has caused some misunderstanding lately. And I've found that I both give and receive help better in these situations when I'm sitting across from someone compared to exchanging an e-mail or instant message.


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    Re: Things not to say to someone going through a hard time

    Post  Rohelf on May 9th 2018, 5:34 pm

    Well, I wish I didn't, but I've got another one to add to the big steaming pile of no. Do not tell someone who has been unjustly treated that we're all equally guilty and unworthy. Maybe that might be technically true in a very narrow theological sense, but it's completely ridiculous in any practical application, not to mention needlessly cruel insult on top of injury. The abusee shouldn't and can't be the same as the abuser in the eyes of God, or why would all those passages about God hating earthly injustice exist?
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    Re: Things not to say to someone going through a hard time

    Post  Paeter on May 10th 2018, 8:33 am

    Rohelf wrote:Well, I wish I didn't, but I've got another one to add to the big steaming pile of no.  Do not tell someone who has been unjustly treated that we're all equally guilty and unworthy. Maybe that might be technically true in a very narrow theological sense, but it's completely ridiculous in any practical application, not to mention needlessly cruel insult on top of injury.  The abusee shouldn't and can't be the same as the abuser in the eyes of God, or why would all those passages about God hating earthly injustice exist?

    Yeah, that's both biblically false and I imagine pretty infuriating to hear. The closest I'd feel comfortable saying is that we all are in hopeless need of forgiveness. (But as you suggested, it's still probably not practically helpful to the freshly wounded to say that.) The Bible seems pretty clear that both consequences and punishment are increased for those who sin more.


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