Friday, September 24, 2010

A Friend Through Thick and Thin

What would you rather have: a severed (best)friendship, a mother who just died, a harshly tarnished reputation (think of being caught in a scandal), an estranged father, a broken heart, or a lost cellphone? Most of you would probably choose the last one. That’s what I’d choose. Well guess what guys? (Sarcastic tone) I think that's what I got! My curiosity didn’t rise from nothing. They came from the accumulated burdens my close friends are carrying. You see, they are currently grieving over the different options in this multiple choice test.

Being their friend, I admit that I don't always have the right words to say. I've said some wrong things in the past that was intended for good, but then those words supposedly of comfort felt like rubbing alcohol on their cuts. Probably you are also trying to think of ways to comfort a friend, let me tell you some no-nos I learned through time:

1. Refrain from saying "It's okay" or "Okay lang yan." In highschool, a friend made me realized that I was an "It's okay" girl. She felt that I was discarding her burdens and not listening to her. If it is "okay" then she wouldn't be grieving over the problem, would she? There is a time of grieving, a time of healing and a time of learning. You probably have a good intention of assuring a friend that everything will be alright, but at the point when the sore is fresh and hurtful, your "It's okay" may make her feel that you don't understand her. (Because it's really not okay!) You may also pressure her to be okay when she's not yet ready to be okay.

2. Avoid giving unsolicited advice. Sometimes when you think you know the whole picture of a friend's problem, it itches you to tell a friend how to solve it. "It's easy as one, two, three.." you may say. Sometimes doing so will just push her back to her shell. For example, you have a friend who is not in good terms with her boss. Her boss stresses her out (more than anybody else in the office). Then you tell her, "Go quit your job." Chances are this lady has already thought of this, weighed her options, and she still decided to stay. More chances are, she'd not open up to you anymore. Because you didn't listen. You cared more about solving her problem, than her (the person). She needed someone to listen to her and understand her, not a seemingly "know-it-all" friend that disrupted her sharing with a bright solution.

3. Don't take the problem lightly. "Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart" (Prov. 25:20). I've a highly sanguine friend who enjoys making people laugh. When I had a relationship problem, he tried to distract me and make me laugh, but he failed. What I felt instead was that he did not take me seriously. If you want to become a friend "through thick and thin" then better be serious, no matter how awkward, when the circumstance calls for it.

Here are some yes-yes. (According to Isagani Cruz, it's better to write positively.)

1. Empathize. This is one very difficult word to explain and apply. Simply put, empathizing is putting yourself in the other persons' shoes. Feeling what they are feeling, thinking what they are thinking. Empathizing allows you to understand the person and see what he currently needs. Empathize and let them know you understand.

2. Journey with them. We walk with them and help pull them up when they stumble. We don't just tell them "Go, get up!" We walk silently when they want silence. We allow them rest. We tell them what to do when they ask for an advice. We give both ears when they want to unload their heavy burden. We give them our shoulders when they feel like crying. This is different from the process of advice giving where we tell them what to do and have them deal with it on their own. Journey with them and let them know that you care.

3. Ask questions. Not the prying ones. Asking can not only lead to the solution, but it also shows that you are interested. Ask to know what happened. Ask what they are currently thinking and feeling. Ask what's making them think or feel that way. Ask what solutions they have already thought of. (But of course, don't cut their sharing by asking too many questions.) Ask and let them know that you are interested.

4. Pray. Pray for wisdom to know how to help your friends. Pray for love to share to them who are in grief. It may also help if you pray WITH them. Put God at the center of the picture. Pray and let God do the work.

Hope this entry helps! If you would like to impart your God-given wisdom, feel free to comment. :)

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