I was having a little temper tantrum the other night. Oh, hush. You know you have them, too.
Anyway, I was whining to my poor husband, who really has been made to endure more than his fair share of wifely temper tantrums lately, and we came to the inevitable. He asked, as he often does, “How can I help you? How do you want me to fix this?” Now, in the interest of fairness I must confess that, though he was taking the brunt of the frustrations, he was not the cause. Therefore he could not actually fix anything. So I stopped in my tantrum and wondered to myself, what did I really want from him?
Often we say we just want someone to listen. But I realized that night, that wasn’t true. I didn’t just want him to listen, again. I wanted someone to validate my pain. The words of my friend came echoing through my head and I realized, I just wanted someone to agree with me. Someone to tell me, “Yes, that just stinks. This thing that has you, time and time again, falling apart at the seams – this thing that you didn’t do and isn’t your fault – it really does stink for you.”
So, I told him. And it was much like a light bulb, the compact fluorescent ones that come on then gain brightness steadily. I saw him ponder my words and he eventually replied, “Yes, it does stink for you.”
I realized in the midst of all of this, that sometimes, when we are trying to be a good friend, a good listener and a good encourager, we try to make it better with encouraging words. How often have I tried to console or comfort with words from my own experiences. “I survived. I understand. I’ve been there. You will make it.” Those are important messages to convey. But sometimes what our friends really need to hear is, “That just stinks.” We need to know that it is okay for us to be upset, hurt, even angry. Then we need to be encouraged to pick up the pieces and move forward. Yet sometimes until we feel someone agrees that it stinks, we can’t move on. We feel we have to keep carrying this banner of pain until someone can say, “Yes. It stinks.” After that validation caring people can, and should, begin to speak healing into our hearts.
After our conversation my husband was able to help me move past the pain and hurt I’ve been dredging back up. What I often thought was healing was a scab forming over an infected wound. Occasionally the infection would boil out and cause the wound to reopen. Once my husband was able to verbalize that this thing was really stinky, I was able to allow him to treat the infection so the wound could, hopefully, fully heal.
I encourage you, listen to your friends. Listen for what they need. Do they need encouragement and advice? Great! Or do they need to hear “Man, that really stinks.”