How To Comfort A Friend

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Our brain has the capacity to store whatever information we receive, whether it is needful or not. But as time goes on, the brain empties its short-term memory. Also, if what’s stored in the long-term memory – be it your birthday 4 years ago or what you ate for breakfast 21 days ago – is not revised with time, the memory decays.

Why? Because of emotional overload.

Every thought, word, taste, smell, scene, touch etc has an emotion attached to it. For eg. You feel sad whenever you think about the death of a loved one. However, some events happen in our lives that are so traumatic that we hit an emotional overload for a long period of time. For eg. losing someone really close to you or seeing someone get shot. These events are traumatic that it’s been scientifically proven to cause neuroplasticity. Did you get it? The victim is so overloaded that it literally changes the structure of his/her brain.

Do you know one thing? We are all headed for such an experience. Life does not even prepare us enough for it. No matter how much you are prepared for it, it is going to shake the very foundations of your will to survive. Keep this in mind when you see it happen to someone close to you. There’s an Akan proverb that says, “when you see a vulture on someone’s head, say get away from us, not get away from the person. For if the vulture leaves the person, it is coming to you.” The vulture is pain, grief, sorrow, trauma, hurt.

If pain in this life is inevitable, why do we pretend to be okay? Why then do we act like nothing is wrong? Why? Hmm. Maybe, here’s why. Usually, people don’t know when the other person needs advice, encouragement, upliftment or comfort. It’s frustrating when you simply need comfort and someone is trying to advise you; when you’re pouring out your heart and the other keeps interrupting you with unsolicited advice. In such a situation, it’s difficult to say the right thing, but one thing will always be the right thing to do; listen.

Listen before you speak. Sometimes the other doesn’t need you to say anything. Don’t make it about you. No one needs to hear what happened to you 5 years ago right now. Listen to the person, not to reply but to be empathic. Also, there’s this culture of belittling people’s experiences just because they are young and “inexperienced”. If a 3-year old is pouring out to you about how frustrating school is, what are you going to do? I guessed it. Downplay it. As if to say the child’s reaction to those experiences are invalid.

If someone says they’ve lost their mother, it’s stupid to compare it to your experience of losing your dog. It’s insensitive to think that the person should get over it because it’s bound to happen. It’s absurd to think they are young and what they are going through now is “little” as compared to what you’ve been through. Everyone’s capacity is different; everyone’s reaction to the emotional load is different. Don’t belittle someone’s traumatic experiences. You are not the one to validate someone’s pain.

You’ve probably written a lot of exam in your life and failed some. How are you going to react to a 13-year old failing exam for the first time? Alright. Okay, how about someone who brought hurt and guilt upon themselves because of their actions? Let’s talk about that category for a second.

Having been called to comfort those who mourn, we have learnt to weep with those who weep and be happy with those who are happy. But how do we comfort other people without denying their reality to sell false hope, and also to avoid our own emotional overload? If you are that friend who always listens to other people pour their hearts out (and we all are that friend in one situation or another), how do you comfort without siding with the person’s mistakes he/she is not willing to admit with uncompromising Compassion?

Jesus is the character in the Bible who is said to have compassion the most. He had compassion over the two blind men in Matt 20:34, the large crowd in Matt 14:14, the four thousand men in Matt 15:32, the five thousand men in Mark 6:34 and many many more. What I found is that Jesus didn’t tell them that there is hope, Jesus was their Hope. Any time Jesus had compassion on the sick, lame, blind, broken, crushed, sad, wretched, Jesus became a channel of healing for them.

Don’t let them dump their burdens on you; help them lay down their burdens before the Father. Don’t promise them comfort, comfort them with the comfort God comforted you. Don’t just let them know that you’ll listen – so that the two of you will be wretched? NO! – let them know that when they come to you, they are not leaving with the burden they came with.

Don’t be a helper in carrying burdens. Be a lifter of one’s head. Learn to comfort the broken without being broken. Don’t absorb their reality, impact yours.

I love you ❤

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