We’ve all experienced that awkward, tongue-tied feeling when approaching someone who is suffering: What should I say? And, we’ve all said the wrong thing at one time or another…or we’ve made the mistake of avoiding the subject of suffering (or avoiding the person altogether.)
Thankfully, Kenneth C. Haugk offers some help in his book Don’t Sing Songs To A Heavy Heart. Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist, founded Stephen Ministries with his wife, Joan. His writing is not preachy nor complicated, giving a foundation of truth on this profoundly difficult topic. He also discusses practical ways to understand how to manage conversations with people who are grieving, sick, or hurting. Haugk encourages readers to examine their own thoughts and “baggage” in order to serve effectively.
This book is more than a list of phrases to use and phrases to avoid. Haugk goes deeper by explaining the context in which our words can help and hurt. He also addresses our own need to “fix things” by offering platitudes, reading material and resources. He gives alternatives so that we can reset our patterns of support to ways that will edify and comfort. He describes how sometimes, when there is nothing to say, our presence, and sensitve silence, can be comforting to someone in need. In addition, Haugk addresses the use of humor and its role in healing.
Finally, Haugk emphasizes that we can play a small part in a much broader experience if we are able to carefully and lovingly respond to suffering. He reminds us that when we reach out to people who are suffering, we are “stepping into a holy place, into the other person’s unique universe of selfhood, need and pain. It is holy because when you enter in, you will find jesus alrady there ahead of you–in that unique person. What a privilege!”
Wishing you the privilege of comforting others~