Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Tuesday, March 27, 2007


    Weep with those who weep

    Like the other part, this is also not as easy as it seems, and for pretty much the same reason. I've blogged about this before, and I'll probably repeat myself a little, but here goes...

    Someone close to me recently went through a very emotionally stressful time. I was not able to be present with him, but his family members showed up to "help" and try to make things more comfortable for him. Issues arose when those who wanted to "help" decided in advance how they would help, rather than asking him what he needed or wanted from them. This led to a phone conversation in which he laid out his frustration to me, and it quickly became apparent that what was really lacking in all the hustle and bustle was someone who was truly concerned with how he was handling the situation emotionally. Unfortunately, I failed to be any better than the others. As the conversation was winding to a close, I told him I loved him and would be praying for him. This moved him to tears, and I was so startled that I couldn't think for a moment, clumsily said goodbye, and hung up.

    While I feel bad about the way it wound up, in retrospect his need was so obvious I can't understand why those who were there couldn't see it. Were they so focused on their definition of "help" that they didn't realize he wanted support? Or did they realize it, but were too afraid of having to offer it -- afraid that they might cry too? It seems like the best thing we could do for those who are hurting is to simply be present in the moment and available to them. Perhaps we should ask what they need or want from us, and be willing to accept whatever they say with grace and kindness, regardless of how we think we might be able to "help".

    Of course, doing such a thing puts us in a very vulnerable position, which may explain why it's so hard. Again, what if it means we have to cry too -- to weep with those who weep? It's easy to feel sorry for people. It's easy to spew platitudes and homilies and wax philosophical. It's hard to be present, available, and vulnerable. Maybe we can only do it with certain others who are close enough to make it "safe", but I think we need to do it. Detached and clinical have their place, but I think we are missing something vital if that is our only response.

    Posted by Tom, 3/27/2007 6:23:40 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...