5 Can’t-Miss Lessons for Walking with People in Pain

As many of you know, this has been the hardest year of my life. I’ve lost count of the number of doctor’s visits we’ve had, but it’s well over 70. The battle with depression and discouragement has been just as real. Along the way, I’ve asked you for permission to share some of the things God is teaching me. But this post isn’t only about me–it’s about someone else who has walked in tremendous physical and emotional pain, and the things we’ve all been learning as we walk this road together. This one’s a bit longer than normal, but it comes from the gut. Thanks for letting us share some of the lessons we’ve learned . . .

(Photo by vajdic at sxc.hu)

(Photo by vajdic at sxc.hu)

It’s hard to walk with someone through times of tremendous pain. And tremendous pain is what my sister has experienced for 14 years. In 1999, she suffered a severe head injury. This led to too many problems to count–chronic, high-level pain . . . extreme fatigue . . . constant nausea and dizziness . . . loads of spinal problems . . . . Then, just as she was finally recovering, nearly 10 years later, disaster struck again. While on a work assignment in Peru, a bus she was riding got in a traffic accident. Faced again with spinal problems and a head injury, her body went into a fully reactive mode, and began to attack everything. She developed off-the-charts food allergies, and then the life-changing burden of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. It was–and is–heart-breaking.

In the first years after her injury, she shared her world of pain with me by writing. I remember sitting at my desk in university, crying hot tears of anguish as I struggled to type a response. I remember walking the neighborhoods of NE Portland, yelling at God at the top of my lungs. The pain she has felt has been real and fresh. The questions we ask in those moments are raw and unfiltered. I was doing everything I could to understand what she was going through. She would say that I was one of the best at entering her pain with her. 

But I still I had no idea. 

And then it happened to me–to us. [Read more…]

The Secret Power of Empathy

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”
~ Jack Handey

(Photo by elvinstar at http://www.sxc.hu/)

(Photo by elvinstar at http://www.sxc.hu/)

The power of empathy, of course, isn’t a new idea:

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” (Steven Covey)
“Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry …” (James 1:19)
“Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue-to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.” (Socrates)

Young people–perhaps more than any other age group–covet empathy. They melt when someone really listens. They bristle when we don’t. Simply put, if we listen, they listen. If we don’t, they don’t.

I can’t count the times I’ve listened to a student, empathized with a student, and cried with a student. And then they’ve said, “I’ve never talked with anyone about this before.” Not their parents. Not their teachers. Not their friend’s parents. Maybe us ‘adults’ aren’t so good at empathizing. And maybe it’s harder than it looks . . .

Why are we so afraid to show empathy to teenagers? Why do we rush to speak, to be heard, to make our opinions clear? Why don’t we truly engage? [Read more…]

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