Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Sometimes we say things without thinking about how they may sound to other people.

I had one of those Eureka moments in church last week, and promptly nearly had a meltdown. A lovely man was doing the prayers and he ended off by saying something along the lines of " and we remember those who are grieving, who have been widowed, or who are alone, and we ask that they know your peace." And my eyes flew open and I looked at him, as he walked back to the pew, sat down next to his wife, and probably went home and sat down at the dinner table with his children around him, and I do.not.have.a.clue. Not one single clue of what you are saying.

Words. Words are easy. They can be so well-intentioned and yet have the power to distance people and you may never begin to realise. Now, before you think I am being judgemental, let me say that I am not. The man I mention could have been me too. But in that single moment, it mattered to me. I must have done the same thing a million times. Not actually considered the words I was saying. And they will have mattered to someone.

The rage that welled up in me was not directed at the man. It was directed at the platitudes which we use simply because they are a part of our grasp of the language we speak. In my case, that happens to be English.

He didn't know. He could not have known. He hasn't been alone, or lost a partner. And he has no idea. Not his fault. In fact, he is enormously blessed. And I genuinely delight in his blessings, and hope he remains blessed forever. I really do.

You can't walk in my shoes any more than I can walk in yours. Here is another example...." I have been thinking about you so much." Said when you bump into someone in the street. How nice. Did it not occur to you to call or visit while you were thinking? "I have been wondering how you are getting on" - Why couldn't you ask? "I haven't seen you for ages...I wondered where you had got to." "I hope life is treating you well."

I do it too. I don't ask. I don't call. I don't visit. Why???? I am too tired. Too focussed on my own problems. Too much to do. Too busy. Busy doing the wrong things. I don't think. I need to do some serious work on myself.

I am in a strange place. I can see both sides, and I am both. I am hurt by the very things which I, in turn, do. This is exactly why everything we experience is designed to be used to help someone who finds themself in similar circumstances.

If only you knew. But I am so glad you don't.


Linda said...

This is such a wise post Linds (by the way - I love your tribute to your Mum. She is just lovely.). There are times I wish I could pull words like that back into my mouth. I don't know why it is we feel we must say something that will make everything all right. Sometimes there just aren't words. I have not walked where you are walking now. What is the best thing to do? I think perhaps it is just to be there to listen and let the other person talk if they want to. So often we say things with the very best of intentions that can be very hurtful.
I'm sorry you felt such pain. I'm glad you wrote about it. It will make us all a bit wiser.

Susie said...

Hi Linds,
We often pray those prayers too and I try to bring to mind those I know who are in those circumstances.
I haven't suffered the type of loss that you have, so I'm never really sure what the right words are.
I'm sure your experiences can truly be used in a beneficial way to help those who suffer a similar loss.

Crystal said...

You are one of the wisest women I know - and one of the best writers too. You always make me think. Thank you for your honesty and creativity. ((( HUGS )))

Midlife Mom said...

I agree with Crystal Linds, you are a great writer and you always make me think too. Sometimes things I really need to think about and your point today was so good. It is so easy for us to say the words but we don't really know what the other person it feeling. I guess like Susie said having never been through a loss like you have I have no idea what it's like and sometimes just don't know what to say for fear of saying the wrong thing. My sister lost her husband to cancer in her 30's with two young children and to this day I know I don't realize all that she has gone through and haven't done enough to help her even though I have tried. Excellent post my friend! Thank you!

PS Awana is our youth group in our church for kids age three through high school. They learn Bible verses, stories, how to obey parents, things like that, also crafts, games, field trips, singing, parties etc.. They learn hundreds of verses over the years and it is the time to memorize not when you get older like me and can't remember your name half the time! lol!

Bronwen said...

Hi Linds I agree that words can wound unintentionally or inflame a dormant anger... but sometimes unknowing to others, those same words were uttered for one person in the congregation who needed to hear them at that moment in time.
Sometimes with a sermon or the intercessionary prayers, it's as if they are directed just at me... God has listened to my anguished call and through that person has given me the comfort/ guidance I needed at that moment in time.
Having started writing "points of focus" basically a short sermon for our contemporary service, I have felt the hand of God as I have written something that was on my heart and perhaps to others a little out of the ordinary... and then someone at the end of the service has come over to thank me as they were in a quandry and heard what they needed to make the next step...
God works in mysterious ways... and maybe your anger was meant to be, for a reason you are not yet willing to admit to....
I hope I haven't spoken out of turn, as I love your blog, your way of thinking and outlook on life.

Hugs from one who hasn't been where you are right now but doesn't know what words to use to show my care and compassion for your situation but doesn't want to stay quiet for fear of you thinking me uncaring...

Janine said...

I couldn't agree more. If one more person had told me that my mom had gone to a better place I would have punched them on the nose. Know exactly what you mean.

Jo said...

Wonderful thought provoking post Linds. Believe it or not I am one of those that try to weigh what I am saying before it comes out of my mouth. There are plenty of times when I screw up and the wrong things just roll out of my mouth when I open it. I know right away what I should not have said and try as I would like to there is no way to pull those words back. I am so glad that you posted this. People really do need to be more sensitive to the feelings of those they speak to and about.

Have a blessed day.