How to be Gentle with People Suffering in Pain

Companion Blog Post For

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

October: A Month of Gentleness

Concept Week 3

 

Concept Week 3: Gentleness moves toward a person in pain but doesn’t take control.

It is difficult to watch a loved-one or close friend live in physical or emotional pain. The knee-jerk reaction is to try and fix it. But when it comes to pain, there is not a one-size-fits-all. With physical pain, it might be appropriate to offer medication, pillows, food, drink, or help moving around. With emotional pain, it might be appropriate to be quiet.

Both types of pain are an indication that something is wrong. Both types of pain can be healed. Both types require assistance. But what is it about emotional pain that makes it so different than physical pain that the remedies are sometimes binary?

Consider a broken leg or diagnosis of disease. We like our bodies to remain intact. We have doctors, surgeons, medications, and people who offer to donate blood, tissue, or organs. In large part, the body is fixable. No one would say, “Yeah, my leg is broken, I’m just gonna leave it. I’m not worthy of a healed leg.” Although it’s painful to go through surgery and rehab, we know that in most cases if we follow the doctor’s orders, the leg will be healthy and useable again. We voluntarily go through the physical healing because the steps are ordered and we can predict the outcome.

Emotional pain is a whole other story because it taps into our soul. It is deep rooted and tangled around belief systems and subsequent behaviors. It can question our identity, our purpose, our destiny, and can shake our foundation to the core. The surface remedies may look similar—an offer of shelter, food, drink, or help with chores—but the actual healing must originate from within.

Consider a job layoff or a partner who carries bitterness or a child who is bullied; any of these can bring tremendous stress and anxiety to the individual and inevitably to those near. The person experiencing the trial must decide how to interpret the downward turn of events: “Do I believe poorly about myself, ‘It’s my fault, I’m not good enough, of course this would happen to me,’” or, “Can I see this situation for what it is, ‘I’m not the only one being laid off, I can choose to look for the good and be grateful, I don’t deserve to be treated this way, I’m not going to allow other people to dictate my identity; I’m secure in who I am.’”

Some people do not want to be well. Not everyone wants emotional healing because it requires a change of mindset. Misery can sometimes feel familiar and therefore comfortable. Change for these people won’t take place until the pain of misery becomes greater than the pain of change.

But many people do want to be rid of the emotional turmoil. We must allow them the space to work it out without taking it personal or taking control.

Gentleness, as a character trait, sits with a friend or family member in need without the desire to blame, complain, preach, judge, or rationalize the event. Sometimes there are no words and it’s best to be quiet. Sitting with open arms, a bowl of soup, a card of encouragement, a silent walk or car ride together—we must love openly and greatly but with respect that they themselves must perform the surgery on their own soul to get rid of the fear and shame and false beliefs holding them back. No one can do it for them. We must be compassionate towards their journey of healing, realizing that it’s not about us. We must pray with gentleness for their return to health.

*For a longer conversation about developing the twelve core character traits, follow along in the year-long journal for deep questions, inspiring quotes and insightful observations.

–Tara Schiro is the author of the newly released, Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016, Xulon Press), and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby), Bob Lujano. Both books are available on Amazon.com, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble. TaraSchiro.com

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