She sat on my kid-stained couch. I sat on the worn rug at her feet listening to my friend pour out her heart-story of how her marriage was falling apart.
Seeing those tears stream down her face in anguish hurt me, but I could tell not as much as they hurt her. Our kids totaling six played happily around us, oblivious to the intensity of the heart-wrenching conversation between their momma’s.
I wanted to interject a fixing word or an action word to replace her hurt or correct her thinking, yet I felt the nudge to simply stay still.
Embrace the fact that the situation just plain stunk.
I remember after she unloaded her pain and sorrows to me—not in a “look at me” sort of way but in a “I just need someone to voice this too”—I was unable to truly relate to what she was experiencing yet feeling the pain of it osmotically.
Her eyes lifted and caught mine.
She began fumbling out, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry…”
“No!” I stopped her.
“Don’t ever be sorry for sharing what you are going through…”
I paused… thinking about the next thing to say, words swirling around my head, and after many minutes leaned over and… hugged her. And kept hugging her. In between sobs we hugged and hugged some more.
No talking… just the tenderness of a sisterhood embrace.
I whispered, “It really does suck… what you are going through. I wish I could say I understand but that would be untrue. I don’t understand what you are going through. I’m not even going to say that I know everything is going to be OK, because I don’t. But I do know it sucks, all of it… you know. I hate this. I’m truly sorry you are going through all this.”
She squeezed me a little tighter, tears turned waterfalls now.
No correcting. No rebuking who was right or who was wrong. She simply needed to hear the words that… sometimes we all just need someone to say to us… “life sucks sometimes.”
Years later she mentioned how much that moment meant to her—that I didn’t pass judgement on her or try to fix her heart with bible jargon that she already knew full well. She said the simplicity of my words, just by saying “life sucks sometimes… I’m sorry” was the best thing for her ears and heart to receive. As well as a tender cuddle propelling the permit to a free flow of therapeutic tears.
No pretty fancy Christian talk.
No, hurry up and get out of your wallowing messy hole.
No, I know what you are going through (because often we don’t!) or everything is going to be OK.
Allowance to just sit there amidst the yuck, embracing the pain and reality of what is.
Sometimes I’m too quick to interject words of encouragement that end up not being encouraging at all. Or offer advice to a friend when the advice wasn’t warranted. Only to leave the situation afterwards feeling guilty for putting on the Mrs. Fix-It or Spiritual-Coach badge on too much at a time when my friend just needed the It’s-OK-to-Wallow-In-Your-Mess-I-Still-Love-You friend to hold them tight through their yuck.
Sometimes we, as friends, are too quick to try and help move another friend forward passed their yucky and sucky moments of life, trying to bypass the pain of what is due to the discomfort it brings. Yet oftentimes, just like when a child starts to cry, instead of a “suck it up” response or “it’s going to be ok,” all they need is someone to hold them tight through their tears of pain until they start to feel better from the emotional release.
A hug. A hand squeeze. Few words… might be the best response as friends and sister’s in Christ.
Embracing the obvious truth of “that really sucks, I’m sorry” in the most genuine heart-felt way may provide the best medicine for your friends heart and soul.
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