Disclaimer: I often think the best thing to do in terms of giving advice is to say little. Often, we think we know more than we do, or we know that we don’t know that much, but we believe we have something to say, something the other person needs to hear from us. So this post is pretty hypocritical in giving advice about giving advice, but I really do feel that from being on the receiving end often this year, I actually have something to say. The reason I write it is simply so that I can look back and remember when I’m the one in the advice-giving position and because I know some people wonder what the best thing to do is when they have a friend who is hurting (I always used to wonder prior to this year).
So this past year has been pretty rough for me. But even still how can I not believe that God freely gives me all things? In the pain, I have gained so much wisdom and life experience. It’s true, when we suffer, it allows us to identify with others who suffer. I try to not be big on giving advice anymore because I know that most of the time, I’ve really nothing important to say. But I feel like at least I know a little bit more now, I can at least say, “I know how you feel, I’ve been there, I’ve made it through that.” And sometimes all you really need is someone to listen, cry with, and tell you that in the end it will be okay.
That’s probably the best advice I got about this year. Everyone was telling me to be strong and honestly sometimes that pisses you off, for how can you be strong when you are despairing and you feel like your heart’s being ripped apart? But then this brother comes along and tells me this: I hope it doesn’t end in _______, but even if it does, you’ll live– I’m still alive, aren’t I?
And I must say I am so thankful for all the love and encouragement and support through the past year, but honestly, when someone is hurting, please please please be prayerful and discerning about what you say. Slow to speak, quick to listen. As Christian as it may feel, spewing out Bible verses and telling the person to be happy because Jesus loves them isn’t necessarily the way to go, though again, it depends. Sometimes, you just need someone you can talk to. A friend who isn’t there to judge you, but one who is willing to listen. (That may just be a girl thing though, as I know it’s been said that girls want someone who will listen and guys want someone to give advice.)
And when you’re listening to a hurt person, know that even if they’re a “strong” Christian, they’re still in an extremely vulnerable place, they’re still a sinner. When you’re hurting, it’s easy to react in ways that are not God glorifying. But give that person lots of grace. They just had their heart broken, which is not an excuse for sin (and they’ll answer to God for sinful reactions… which scares me a bit knowing that I often reacted very sinfully), but should hopefully be enough reason to give them grace. And yes, you can try to keep their reactions in check, but as much as you can, try do so out of love for them, not out of your own hurt/offense/anger.
And don’t be afraid to go to the person. Again, use discernment about how you do it though. Also know that you won’t always get the response you want. At the beginning of the year, many people reached out, however I didn’t respond much, but I honestly appreciate so much how loved I felt by the body. I don’t remember everyone who texted/e-mailed/whatevered, but I felt God’s love through the community reaching out, even if I didn’t meet up with every person that offered or respond to every Facebook message I received.
Overall, just be discerning about what you say and do. Slow to speak, quick to listen, quick to love. Even be discerning about what medium (call, text, e-mail, Facebook) you use. As much as we may think the most Christian thing is to run to a person who is hurting, doling out verses and what we think is encouragement, sometimes the best way to support is to love quietly, deeply, and show lots and lots of grace.
Finally, when in doubt, pray. God knows what that person needs to persevere and to heal. He knows even more than the person who is hurting knows! Bonhoffer said that the closest way to another person is through Christ. There is so much value in prayer and I am so thankful for all the people who have lifted up prayers for me this past year.
Anyway, just some of many thoughts on advice.
Conversely, as an advice receiver, I know I too must show lots of love and grace– before going through this past year, I never knew how to respond to people who were deeply hurting and would always wonder what the best thing to do was and I’m sure I made things worse a lot of the time and failed at being there for people.
So I guess in the end, no matter what the situation, we need great love and grace to cover the actions/sins/mistakes of others.
Just reminds me of 1 Peter 4:8:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Still learning. For sure. And thanking God for HIS great love and grace, which has covered me tremendously in the midst of my sin.