helpful & oh-so-not-helpful things people do and say along the way.

kathyescobar faith shifts, healing, incarnational 64 Comments

blog helpful and oh not so helpfuli have a a theory about people and pain.  when we see others in it, we don’t quite know what to do. the anxiety and discomfort of what other people are going through causes us to do and say a lot of really stupid things.

almost every hurting person i know has a least a couple of stories of things people-said-and-did to them along the way that really was not helpful.  in fact, it often hurt–sometimes deeply.  simple fixes, trite spiritual phrases, and direct messages about getting-better-quick left many of us feeling more shame, anger, and loneliness.

at the same time, often there are people along the way who offer healing balm for our wounds, who stayed with us in the darkness, who provided love & hope & encouragement in such beautiful tangible ways.   their gifts of peace sustained us.

in my own journey through healing from personal pain and physical pain also through my faith shifts, i have experienced both. i know who and what was good for my soul and i know who and what did more harm.  who i willingly drew closer to and who i avoided with a 10-foot-pole.

i think we’re all pretty clear by now that the deconstructing-rebuilding process is a messy, painful journey, not only for us but sometimes for those around us, too.  and we all have stories of things that people said-and-did along the way that helped us and may have also hurt us.

the purpose of this series was to provide some hope & a loose framework for fellow sojourners. my hope was also to create a space to say out loud some things that needed to be said so that we could learn how to navigate through this process ourselves–and with others–better.

as an appendix to the last 2 weeks of posts together centered on rebuilding after deconstructing, i’d love to create two lists that we can share with the world:

1. a list of things people said and did during the bloody messy deconstruction process that helped, soothed, encouraged, and strengthened us.  

2. and a list of ones that were oh-so-not helpful.  it can become the top 10 please-don’t-ever-say-this-to-people-in-the-deconstruction-process.

i’m going to compile all of the responses into something cohesive as part of this series so i really hope you’ll take a few minutes and participate.  this is a time to honor what worked and be painfully honest about what didn’t.  a time to celebrate the good & let it rip on the bad.

here are mine, the helpful & the oh-not-so-helpful things people said to me during deconstruction:

helpful:

#1, without a doubt – when people just listened & didn’t offer any advice.

“it’s really hard”

“i’m with you no matter what”

“oh, i know that feeling”

“i care about you, not just your beliefs”

oh-not-so-helpful:

“when are you going to stop being so bitter?”

“i’m scared for you” 

“i have a sermon that you really need to listen to.”

“the church is made up of imperfect people–what do you expect?”

“my church is so awesome! you’d really like it”

“you’ve got to be careful of the slippery slope.”

i know some of you have much more painful ones than these.  please, share them freely.  others need to know how nuts it can be.

what about you? what helped?  what hurt?  thanks for sharing.

my hope is that we can all keep learning how to be safer for others along the way.

* * * * *

ps: i just got back from chicago and a lovely weekend in conversation centered around sacred friendship.   i met so many wonderful people & it brings me so much hope, these conversations about men and women learning how to love & live & learn & lead alongside one another as equals, as friends.  alise wright blogged a recap each day, and you can read them here and here.  if you are new to this blog and haven’t read anything yet about friendship here, i have a list of posts on the bottom of the past series page.

next here:  soul care & spiritual practices that sustained us during deconstruction