As a friend, mentor, parent, it is crucial to be a person who remembers.
What am I talking about?
No, I don't mean remembering birthdays (though that is nice). I don't mean remembering to run errands, to ask about an appointment, or to water the neighbors' plants. I don't mean remembering random facts, or preferences, or humor spots. The remembering I am talking about is much more substantial, weighty, important.
To be a good friend, you must remember what it felt like to be exactly where the person you are speaking with is. You must remember hurt. You must remember loneliness. You must remember confusion. You must remember unhindered love and expectancy. You must remember anticipation and heartbreak. You must remember foolishness. You must remember.
Remembering, allowing yourself reentry into the difficult, into the wonderful, into the emotional roller-coastings, into the joy or pain of your past, enables you to say with confidence, "Yes, friend. I do understand."
On a basic level, the cause of human sorrow breaks down into one of two categories, sin and suffering. People are aching in their hearts, because either they are drowning in the depths of their own sin, they are actively responding to the consequences of another's sin against them, or they are bearing a circumstance in which no blame can be placed, but regardless, the situation is hard and hurtful.
Have you ever beeen confronted with the sting of your own sin?
Have you ever been beaten down and bruised as another has sinned against you?
Have you ever lived through circumstances out of your control, that were difficult?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then you have wisdom, love, and guidance to share with another friend. You have a wealth of resources wrapped up in your heart.
But, you must first remember. You must remember how you felt.
Were you scared? Were you angry? Were you ambivalent? Were you overwhelmed? Were you sad?
What helped? What brought healing? What was refreshing? What was draining?
Where did silence fit into your medicine? Where were words useful? What place did physicality play?
In order to be a good friend, you must remember, and you must respond.
Hear what I am not saying. I am not saying compare your own experience one for one and speak as if whatever it was that you survived is entirely correlative.
No. Your experience is not the same. Guaranteed.
However, as mentioned before, human sorrow breaks down into two categories, sin and suffering. On that level, you, as a friend, can relate. And so, proceed to ask yourself the previous questions, but then be the friend who you wanted during your time of need.
Did you want someone to come in and tell you just how they had survived something hard? Of course, not. Did you want someone to one up your heartache story? No. You certainly did not.
What you desired takes a little more effort, a little more work. You wanted a friend, who understood on the base level the depth of your sorrow, your suffering. You wanted them to remember their own experience of such a thing, and you wanted them to translate their experience into positive, constructive help for your current situation.
I spoke in a previous post about having a miscarriage. My experience with miscarriage was sad. It really was. But, there were circumstances surrounding my miscarriage that made it unique. Therefore, any time a friend has a miscarriage, I do not have a warrant to share my miscarriage story under the guise of understanding, as if whatever I experienced and felt is exactly the same as she is experiencing.
I do, however, have an opportunity to remember what physically occured in my body ... and to ask questions concerning that strangeness of it all. I do have an opportunity to think through my emotions as I saw an ultra-sound picture that contained a sac, but no fetus ... and to ask questions relating to that heartwrenching moment. I can think through the effect that my well-being and the loss of child had on Mark ... and I can press into the way a friend's spouse is coping.
Do you see the distinction?
There is a difference between spouting out your own sad past in light of a tragedy, and learning to press into your own experience to bring forth helpful insight, questioning, and care.
Sometimes this care simply looks like presence. Being present, being there. Sometimes care looks like shedding tears, giving hugs, holding hands, offering smiles. Sometimes care involves words, it incorporates asking questions, repeating fond memories, listening to insignificant details. Care is as varied as people are. And yet, sorrow is a product of either sin or suffering. And so, as a human, as a friend, you can relate.
But first, you must remember.
Lesson Learned: Be thoughtful in the words spoken to a friend during a time of need.