“Amy, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about comfort this year.” Patty said during one of our editor’s meetings for Velvet Ashes. We were planning out the spring and talking about this week’s theme of “comfort.”
Since her comment, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned in recent years about comfort versus what I call a “comfort misfire.”
(I’m not normally violent or cuss; I’m bouncy and encouraging by nature. So I know it’s a misfire if I want to stifled violence or cussing after an attempt at comfort.)
I did not want to become an expert on how to comfort people. I’d rather be an expert on how to drive fast safely or how to make the perfect peanut butter toast; but significant events turned me into a comfort expert.
- The blog post I wrote about Mother’s Day: I’m still contacted every single week in regards to it.
- Circumstance in my job and life lead to resigning even though I thought I’d be in that job until retirement. Not just resign, resign and relocate across an ocean.
- The death of my dad.
Let me say up front I believe the intention have been honorable and to comfort me. However, it’s a tiny bit stunning how many people stink at offering comfort.
This is what I’ve learned:
1. The power of showing up. You don’t have to say or do anything profound. I think popular Youtube videos and Hollywood have warped out thinking in this area. If something isn’t big and spectacular or receives multiple likes and comments, it doesn’t seem worth doing. However, I’ve learned a text or a card, an email message, cooking a meal, making a phone call, coming to the hospital communicates comfort.
Job’s friends got this right when for the first seven days they showed up and sat with him. The problems started when they opened their mouths.
2. What you can say to me depends on who you are. If you are in my inner circle and know more than the average bear, you can say about anything and it will comfort. But if you’re not, please keep your comments generic.
“Isn’t it wonderful God knew your dad was going to die, so He had you in the U.S.” No, I want to snap, no it is not wonderful. The reason I’m in the U.S. is because I lost my voice and influence and began to die on the inside. Are you telling me God had me go through this crap so that I could be with my dad? Do you really think God could find no other way to get me in the same country as my dad than to crumble my life around me? I don’t believe God plays with us like a cat and mouse. Is he using what I’ve experienced for my good and to grow and refine me? Yes. But that’s different than what you said.
“I’m thankful you could be near your dad when he died.” Me too. That one comforts.
Multiple times I’ve been told, “It’s a good thing you’re a woman and not a man, because troubles in your job didn’t hurt you the way it would a man. You know how significant work is to a man.”
It takes all I have to stifle the rage I feel. “Are you (very colorful word) kidding me?” I want to ask; followed up by, “Do you really have no clue who I am? I am a single woman past childbearing years. Where do you think I’ve contributed my time, talents and effort? Oh right, my work.” If you cut me, I bleed. Like every human being. Don’t be an ass :). See what I mean about the opposite?
“Wow, I’m sorry for what you’ve experienced.” Ah, now I feel seen and known and comforted.
If you’re in someone’s inner circle, be there for him or her with your insights and comments. But if you’re not, keep it general and you’ll hit your goal of being comforting.
3. The final lesson is you don’t have to have walked the path to offer comfort. In God’s delightful comic sense of humor and connection, I am involved in Mother’s Day all year long. What God has shown me through the reactions to that post and the videos made from the prayer is this: the biggest part of comfort is creating space for connection not sameness.
I have probably over analyzed why the Mother’s Day post has been so popular. In essence it expanded the story of Mother’s Day from “Yay for Moms!” to “What’s your story?”
(Which by the way, includes, “Yay for Moms!”)
Your story and my story don’t have to be similar for us to be able to comfort each other. The key is: am I willing to hear what you’re saying without assuming I know what you’ll say.
And that right there might be the biggest lesson of comfort: Listen more than you talk. The most comforting question? How are you? This gives me the freedom to be as shallow or as deep as I’m comfortable with that day or with you.
I know you care, I really do. This is one of the beautiful ways we are made in God’s image. He tenderly says, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” My hope is that we keep growing in extending comfort to one another and to spare you the less than Godly responses I’ve had.
And by offering comfort, new life will grow and blossom.
What would you add to my list? What less-than-comforting things have been said to you?
I’m linking up with Velvet Ashes and the theme of Comfort