What Makes Something Better…

“People don’t need just sympathy, and shaming never helped anyone. However, empathy is the full embodiment of truth and compassion, and helps heal hurting hearts.”

-Mike Foster, People of the Second Chance

I’ve been talking a lot lately with a man who’s going through the most difficult season of his life. Even as I typed that sentence it was painfully obvious to me how much of an understatement it is, trying to describe what he’s walking through. This is a guy whose entire life as he’s known it for 20+ years is coming to an end, and he’s looking at a very uncertain future.

He’s a man who has spent the majority of his life ministering to others, while neglecting to pay attention to some very broken areas in his own life. His brokenness has resulted in a painful blowup, a volcanic eruption of consequence.

He’s angry. Angry with himself, and angry with some people who have hurt and are hurting him. And he’s angry with God. He tells me He doesn’t see how God can be in this, how God can really love him and allow what’s happening to continue.

One of the hardest things for me to do is resist the driving urge to fix it.

If I wanted to, I could pick apart some of what he’s saying as he laments his current lot in life. I could show him where I think he’s lacking perspective. I could remind him that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and he just isn’t able to understand what’s going on right now.

But none of that would help right now.

Right now, my friend is hurting. He’s angry and he’s disillusioned. He hasn’t forsaken or rejected God, but he is mad at Him right now. What he needs from me isn’t a pithy, easy answer. It isn’t a sensible explanation of what’s going on. He needs me to listen to him mourn, gripe, bitch about his situation without judgment.

He needs me to be there.

One of the best and most eloquent expressions I’ve ever heard regarding concept comes from Brenè Brown. When talking about our need for empathy, she says…

“Empathy fuels connection; sympathy drives disconnection…Empathy is feeling with people…Rarely, if ever, does an empathic response begin with ‘At least’…

’I had a miscarriage.’

          ‘At least you know you can get pregnant.’

‘I think my marriage is falling apart.’

          ‘At least you have a marriage.’

‘John’s getting kicked out of school.’

          ‘At least Sarah is an A student.’

If I share something with you that’s very difficult, I’d rather you say, ‘I don’t even know what to say right now…I’m just so glad you told me.’ Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.”

-Brenè Brown

I believe my friend is going to heal. I don’t think he’s going to stay where he is. If he says or does things out of his pain that are harmful or sinful, I believe he’ll repent of those later. I believe God can handle my friend’s anger and shaky faith. I believe it’ll be easier for my friend to walk through what he’s going through with me walking along with him.

When we walk with our godly but wounded friends through their sorrow, we are an embodiment of someone else who is walking with them, too. Someone who can empathize with every pain they feel, but even more than that. Someone who can personally relate. Someone who does know what to say and what to do.

And sometimes we can point them to Him without preaching or even saying a word.

And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God

-from “The Silence of God” by Andrew Peterson

gregblogGreg Oliver was a worship pastor for 15 years before his secret addiction to pornography and sex was exposed in January of 2009. Since then he has been on a journey of recovery, coming to know God better and experiencing His grace like never before. He and his wife Stacey have experienced deep healing & restoration within their marriage, and through the ministry of Awaken they walk with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders to help them experience connection and healing in the midst of sexual brokenness. If you’re a ministry leader, we’d love to talk with you more about this, and other issues related to sexual addiction recovery for people within your churches. Our passion is to help pastors and ministry leaders become more confident in their shepherding of sexually broken people. We’d love to partner with you. Contact us at info@awakenrecovery.com!