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We Want Someone To Be With Us As We Are

February 1, 2012

“When life kicks us in the stomach, we want someone to be with us as we are, not as he or she wishes us to be.  We don’t want someone trying to make us feel better.  That effort, no matter how well intended, creates pressure that adds to our distress.”

Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams, Page 123

Questions for Reflection:
In what ways do you try to give relief or make someone feel better when they are sharing their trials and hurts?
Why is it hard for you to simply be present with someone who is hurting?

  1. Doug Van Schooneveld permalink

    1. This is the first time I’ve been on the blog, what interesting questions. My natural reaction is to offer a solution, to say something wise to try to make them feel better. Those few times when I have listened and asked God for help, he has helped me minister even by just saying, I don’t know. It is almost like being intimate with my wife, if my thoughts are tender, loving, and pure, we sail on the clouds. When I am thinking only of myself, that is how the experience ends up alone,

    2. Like my advice giving without entering the presence of pain, it seems as if I have prostituted the other persons feelings. I was in the hospital yesterday, trying to console a friend in such pain he vomited. He broke his ankle in two places, twisted ligaments, along with a sprain. He was recently forced to retire, trying to sell a home and move, get a new job, in a dying industry, Christian publishing, we joked about uttering no Godly cliches at the hospital. I left with a prayer about how trials do one thing in true friendship, they bring us together, alongside of each other, reassuring us how much we need each other. Much like the the word comforter in Greek, “To come alongside.”
    In answer to the question, I’d rather offer a verbal solution, its much harder to offer only the presence of my unadulterated sinful self.

    Haven’t meant to give a sermon, I’m in need of counsel for my wife and myself, got on the blog by accident.

    • Ken permalink

      Thanks, Doug, for sharing your story. It IS really hard not to try to fix situations or people whether they want it or not. Some years ago, when my wife was obviously upset about something, I asked her what was wrong. At first she just wouldn’t say anything, then finally she said she would tell me IF I didn’t try to fix it or give advice about the situation. Just listen. Since that time, I’ve realized how much it’s a part of my nature to be a problem solver, fixer, adviser. And how often that’s the wrong way to enter into a conversation with someone who is hurting.

  2. This is so true. At the darkest of my moments I didn’t need someone to problem solve or say nice things. I needed someone to just be there with me, and they were, deeply. I will always remember that moment. They said absolutely nothing other than to say that they were with me. I wasn’t alone, I was held.

    We like to problem solve, advise, formulated steps, as it makes us feel comfortable. Self centred comfort and safety.

    I blogged about it today.

    • Doug Van Schooneveld permalink

      I need some advise. As an example, I grew up in a home where alcohol flowed freely. I would gladly lose my problems in drink when I have a problem. The difficulty I have is letting life kick me in the stomach without wanting to escape in some way. I don’t use alcohol but I think I’d still rather retreat, book, movie, mindless conversation, or caloric indulgence then face the issue. Does a friend step into the difficulty to help me with my confrontation avoidance, or should we go out and just play golf? I could ask the same question and apply it to a spouse, for instance, many wive’s would say, “Quit trying to change me,” should a husband not critique her behavior hoping for change? Correction seems vital to every relationship is it not, her’s as well as mine? Is quiet listening a solution for a type of problem, grief, loss, feelings of insecurity? Even with the quite listening, the motive is still for the persons healing, or change is it not?
      Thanks Doug VS

      • Hi Doug, thanks for the response. Correction, advice etc have their place, but so often they come before relationship has developed to the point where the advice etc can truly be wise and worthy of listening to.
        I love this quote

        Only those willing to stand close enough to listen will ever hear those closest to the problem. Jim Wallis

        I also find that the person I am listening to often has the answer or Spirit (Holy) is already at work and all we need to do is to invite them to listen to themselves and God. To invite the answer to come to the surface and embraced.

        Saying all this, when I go to my Doctor with a question I want an answer and some medical advice, interesting though he often asks me what I think would be best.

      • Ken permalink

        In Dr. Crabb’s SoulCare course (available at, he speaks of everyone’s desire to be known, explored, discovered and touched. It takes time, because the person to whom you’d like to provide soulcare needs to know you’re a safe person who really cares about them. Your highest priority is NOT to FIX them or CHANGE them, but to KNOW them. You’ll never hear the following unless you’re invited in:

        “You know, I would like to share who I am with this person. I think I am willing to share who I am with this person. I think I am willing to share my secrets. I would like to be known by this person.”

        And you won’t be invited in if the person doesn’t sense you are safe. If they think your only interest is in changing them.

        We also need to stop and self-check: “Am I wanting this person to change because of MY hurts, habits and hang-ups–because that would make MY life easier?”

        Just my two cents worth.

      • Doug Van Schooneveld permalink

        I really appreciate both of your thoughts, I see that is exactly my central motive, to fix the problem. I need prayer to be a safe person, a trustworthy agent and friend. Tonight I feel like there is a little more hope because I’m not going to keep trying to measure the effectiveness of my solutions and push them on my wife. Please pray for patience for me, i really would like a quick fix to a problem that has been going on for many years. Now it seems we need to try to attach and come alongside each other after 40 years of marriage.

        Yet I do disagree on the value of your words, Proverbs says good advice is like, “Apples of gold in settings of silver,” certainly worth a lot more than two cents…..
        Doug VS..

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