Most of us have two tendencies that result in us responding the wrong way whenever one of our students shares pain with us. The first is that we have a tendency to fix things, an almost irresistible urge to come up with solutions. The second is that as Christians, someone else’s pain makes us uncomfortable. It’s as if we cannot endure suffering and want to end it right away, make it better, make it go away.
So when one of our students shares pain with us, we respond with solutions, with words that are supposed to bring comfort, with well intended passages from Scripture that offer a broader view on suffering. We assure them everything will be okay, that God will use everything for good for those who love Him, that they should try this or pray that.
By focusing on the solutions, by wanting to make the other feel better (and maybe even wanting to make ourselves feel better because pain makes us uncomfortable) we never truly acknowledge their pain. We never take the time to first be with our young people in their pain, to just to grieve together over the suffering we all face at one time or another.
A lot of times, young people who share their pain with us, don’t expect us to come up with answers or solutions. Maybe they don’t even want us to, certainly not at first. They don’t need us to have all the answers, even when they’re asking the dreaded ‘why-question’ (‘Why did God allow my parents to break up?’ ‘Why did my mom get cancer?’).
What young people in pain need is to be heard, to be seen. They need for their pain to be acknowledged as real, even when they’re in pain over something we consider trivial in the bigger scheme of things (like a breakup with a boyfriend we thought was a loser in the first place). They hurt, they’re in pain and they need us to be there with them.
Instead of offering wisdom or solutions, offer your ears. Just listen. Be before you do. Reflect back on what they’re saying and allow them to vent their emotions. There’s always time later to say something profound, but make sure to be present in their pain before doing or saying anything to try alleviate it.
Do you find it hard to listen and simply be, instead of offering solutions and wisdom?