A long time ago, someone shared with me that one of the most loving things we can do for others is to tell them what we need. It gives others the same opportunity to show grace and love and care that we ourselves have when they do the same for us. If we withhold, we rob others of that gift. And being able to give grace and help others in time of need is truly just that; a Gift.
So that’s what my last few essays have been about here on my little blog.
But make no mistake: I am not only talking about things that I have concluded that I need for myself. I truly believe this applies to so many people out there in the world ~ not just those who might struggle with an invisible illness, like my Fibromyalgia. There may be some deep and dark grief that is lodged firmly inside of their heart, or things that are causing internal stress that is wreaking havoc in their life. Most every person is fighting a battle of some kind that may be invisible to the naked eye.
By the way: I hate the “outta sight, outta mind” deal, if you haven’t noticed. I truly feel it glorifies God to celebrate all that we are grateful for, but also refuse to sweep under the rug that which is uncomfortable or ugly simply for convenience, selfishness, or whatever reason it is that is driving us to….sweep and hide stuff. And I do it all too often myself. Ick!
Jesus didn’t do only the fun stuff when it came to relationships when He walked this earth, friends. Why should we?
Others may have a “list” that is different than mine, but in most cases, I have found that it boils down to three main things ~ belief, compassion, and care.
In the last essay I shared 10 things that we might NOT want to say to someone struggling with an invisible illness or fighting a battle we cannot see, but that is very, very real. Today, as promised, I will share what I personally feel IS good to say in these situations.
Why only three things when it comes to the positive aspect of this?
Because to me, these three things hold more power all by themselves than even 100 of the things that we shouldn’t say do. They are a Power Punch Trio of beauties that always make me walk away feeling cared for, and wanting to share all of myself with the person who has said these things to me and said them with a sincere heart. When it’s sincere, their follow-up actions always prove their words to be overall true.
As you read what I have shared here, please remember that as always, it’s about the intentions of the heart and know that these are simply the things that almost always scream to me “I love you and I care.” It is a personal feeling, a by-no-means-exhaustive list, and just what I have seen it boil down to as I have struggled these last few years with invisible ailments (physical, emotional, and spiritual). As I said, it can take on many forms and words can be tweaked here and there ~ but for me, it always has come down to these three things that make me actually feel I can share my burden with someone else. For REAL.
So here it goes….
“What you are dealing with is REAL.” In other words, “I totally believe you.” I can tell you without question, that especially when it comes to Fibromyalgia, we are treated as though it is not quite all the way “real”. But this holds true to many of the other invisible things that folks around us deal with as well. If we can’t see it, measure it, label it, or somehow control it, we seem to throw our hands up and either avoid it, or chalk it up to some other junk. We have to put meaning behind these words too – the person struggling with something like this needs to be convinced again and again that we believe them. Why? Because they are being bombarded with messages that are quite the opposite on a daily basis. They need to know that you believe them just as much as the friend of yours who just received a cancer or RA diagnosis. Invisible Illness, Grief, Pain or Stress from something that happened a while ago, but has rocked this person’s world and still is TODAY, all of this stuff is just as real as the stuff we can slap a label on ~ we have to dig to bring that which is not seen to the surface. Helping to encourage someone that you believe them is often the first step in allowing the ugly thorns that attack them relentlessly to come to the surface so they don’t have to bear the pain alone.
“It’s truly okay to feel bad about it sometimes.” Guilt for being sick all the time is not only self-imposed. In my case, I do take the guilt up on my own a lot of the time, but I must tell you that the medical community, the world at large, is not helping matters for those who struggle with chronic and invisible illness. We see the way that others are treated who have a clean-cut (albeit ugly) diagnosis, versus those of us who have one that is about a condition the medical field doesn’t even understand yet. We see it and cannot help but wonder why we aren’t given permission to feel bad about our pain, our brain fog, our limitations, while others who struggle with something that is more tangible for others to grasp can. We have to ultimately be able to give ourselves permission to feel bad about what we are going through most of the time. But it certainly helps when those closest to us do so as well. This holds true for stress and grief that people are walking around holding inside and dealing with all by their lonesome selves. If they only had permission to talk about it and even know that it’s okay to feel bad about it sometimes, maybe they could actually get on the road to healing and even helping others.
“I want to understand as best I can.” We stink as a society about being willing to deal with the ugly stuff in life. We want all the flowers and bows and pretty little wrappings to make things easier for us to swallow. Basically, we just want to have the party and not do any of the work to make it happen. I don’t know what world we think we are living in, but this fairy tale land we have made up for ourselves is a lie. If we truly want relationships that are lasting and real, we have to be willing to get down in there with people ~ share in the beauty AND the ugly, wade through the things we can easily understand and the things that puzzle us to no end. It’s about wanting to and trying to and being there even when we don’t. But so often, we fail to even express to others that we’d like to understand better what they are going through. Just allowing them to talk helps. But asking questions does too – it shows interest, desire, and an actual care and concern that goes beyond a stance of “I’m here for the ride” and moves right into, “I am sitting right next to you and not going ANYWHERE. Talk to me, brother!”
So those are my three things, dear friends. My three things that I think we can say to others who are struggling with stuff and may feel alone in that battle. My three things that I feel hold more power and punch than all the many little negative things we can try to avoid saying.
Our role is to find ways to encourage others and help them know they don’t have to allow the battle, illness, grief, stress to remain hidden. It can be brought to the surface, and dealt with, even if it takes a lifetime ~ together. We don’t have to bear it all alone and we most certainly don’t have to do that and hide all that is ugly from the rest of the world.
When we do, we truly aren’t doing others in our lives any favors.
MOST important is to remember that only God can truly heal us. Only God can truly understand us, friends. But He has placed us in one another’s lives to be encouragers to one another, to be iron that sharpens iron, to help one another bear the burdens (especially the ugly and invisible ones). There are times that we have to face parts of things alone (just us with God), but if we make it a habit of bearing all of our burdens by ourselves, self starts to creep in and surrender becomes elusive.
Let us look for the invisible hurts and pains that our very own neighbor is contending with today. Let us search for the beauty and the ugly in the lives of those with whom we interact. And let us encourage each other that we are here for ALL OF IT….the long haul, the sickness and in health thing, the for better or for worse deal.
Because only taking the good parts and discarding all the rest makes for a petty little party. I want the real relationships, don’t you? I’ll take the Power Punch of true friendship and love over the petty party any day.
And that, is what makes me go to sleep at night feeling a lot lighter than when I woke up earlier that morning.
It wasn’t the cake, or the flowers, or the circus animals that did it. It wasn’t all the fun and frilly ribbons and presents ~ or the snacks or the treats or the music and dancing on the tables. No….not at all.
It was the Power Punch.
And it didn’t even have to be spiked.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2