Tag Archives: empathy

January 6; If It Were Me…

Job 4-7

Eliphaz meant well. He’d traveled some distance to be with his hurting friend. He sat with Job in silence for a whole week. To me, that is a sign of real friendship.

But, like most of us, Eliphaz got to the point where he wanted to fix things. Maybe he was uncomfortable himself in the presence of such intense grief. Maybe he just wanted to make Job feel better. “Ok, Job. You’ve cried about this long enough. Let’s figure this thing out and do something.”

Whatever his motive, once Eliphaz started talking, he was little comfort to his friend. Maybe there is something we can learn from his example.

Like rethinking the blame game. Eliphaz, in effect, says, “Face it, Job, you deserve this.” Then if that isn’t bad enough, he follows that with the ever popular: “If I were you…

Actually, he said, “But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.” (5:8 emphasis mine)

Here’s the thing: when we know of people going through hard situations, examining ourselves is not a bad thing to do. Asking myself what I might do in a similar circumstance reveals some important things about me.

BUT YOU DON’T SHARE YOUR FINDING WITH YOUR HURTING FRIEND.

Because you are you. Your friend is your friend. Your circumstances are yours. Their circumstances are theirs. Besides, you DON’T know what you would do. Not really. Not even if you’ve experienced something similar. You are not them. What worked for you might not work for them.

You telling them what you would do elevates you, and further pushes them into their already hopeless estate. I can’t believe any of us would want to do that to someone who is already in that much pain. Even if they ask you what you would do, or ask what you think they should do, resist the temptation to tell them.

I find that saying something like, “I don’t know,” is sometimes the only truthful answer. “What do you think you should do?” is a much better response. Or, even better: “Let’s pray and ask God to show you what you should do.”

Eliphaz and his friends are going to have a bucket full of advice for Job. And really, none of it is all that good. But let’s read their words and learn to be better comforters, better counselors, better friends to people who are hurting.

If it were me, I’d learn from their mistakes. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

 

 

Psalms 8-11; Crumbling Foundations

There is so much unrest, so much evil, and hatred, dishonesty and self-seeking people in our county, I could almost take the advice of David’s friends in Psalm 11, and fly away. The wicked are winning. Is it time to fly the white flag?

The school districts in the county where I spent 37 years in public education, have had more than their share of tragedy since school started in August of last year. Nine adolescent suicides and one adolescent murder-suicide have devastated this average American community.

Last week’s shooting in Florida is yet another tragedy that has rocked our world. I am heartbroken as are many of you. Too many of our youth are living like there is no hope.

But this time, in my grief, I am angry. When adults use grieving, impressionable children to further their own political agendas, we’ve sunken deeper into the mire. Those who organized this field trip to Washington are the lowest kinds of abusers, as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s what needs to happen: Instead of focusing on guns, we need to focus on what’s inside the hearts of those who have no hope, who have no respect for life, who cannot see beyond themselves.

You’ve heard it said, it’s not a gun issue, it’s a heart issue. And it is.

I don’t want to glorify the “anti-bullying” mentality, because that whole movement has made victims of everybody. Teaching children that people¬†should treat you fairly has done more harm than good. But I wonder if the classmates of all of the kids who either kill themselves or others, have a responsibility. I wonder if the parents of the classmates of those kids have a responsibility, the school employees, the neighbors of those children. You. Me.

We’ve spent so much time and money teaching kids how to stick up for themselves. Maybe we should turn our efforts into teaching kids how to stick up for one another. In our efforts to stamp out bullying, we’ve given children the idea that they have the power within themselves to stop an evil person from being evil. (If you say this, or do this, they’ll stop being mean to you) And we are lying to them. The truth of the matter is you can’t.

I wonder how many of the students who enjoyed their little trip to D.C. ever reached out to that classmate. I wonder how many of them spoke to him after his mother died. I was in schools long enough to know the cruelest words are often cloaked in niceties. I wonder how many of those survivors said things, laughed at things, saw his social media posts and did nothing, or simply went about their day acting like this boy didn’t exist.

And I wonder how many of their parents, knowing this boy’s situation, ever encouraged their own children to include him. I wonder how many adults reached out to this boy.

I know there were some. And I also know that this adolescent was a troubled, lost boy. One kind word would not have changed the outcome, because there were some people who did speak those kind words. But I wonder if placed on a scale, would the kindness out weigh the cruelty?

I wonder the same in the lives of those ten dead children in my hometown. Has our country become so self-absorbed that we don’t even see the children who are desperate to be heard?

I will not talk about the “system” that failed, or the FBI, or the security guards, or the gun that was used. All of those are byproducts of the problem, not the cause of the problem.

The problem is us. We need to start teaching children how to take responsibility for their actions, that treating others the way they want to be treated is hard, but right. We need to stop making everything a political issue, even though doing that conveniently allows us to blame someone else for our own failures.

We need to boldly proclaim that there is hope. There is forgiveness and unconditional love. There is peace, and joy, and a real reason to live regardless of situations. We need to introduce people to their Savior, Jesus, the giver of life.

The foundation of our society is crumbling, as is seen in the perceived hopelessness of our children. David asks:

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? (11:3)

Rebuild the foundation! Ezra did.

Dear one, we are all guilty about what happened in Florida, and in other parts of our country. Too many of us are either actively destroying the foundation of our country, or we’re sitting back and watching it crumble.

And our children are dying while we play politics, or bury our heads in our phones.

God forgive us.