I think now is a great time to begin a new series! For the next several posts, I’d like to dive into how to respond to common platitudes that people might say to encourage you, but end up being offensive or unhelpful. For instance, ever heard the phrase “Just hang in there!” when you’re going through an incredibly difficult trial? I certainly have and it is one of my biggest pet peeves now. (Feel free to call me out if you ever hear those words come out of my mouth.) Ok, ok. I need to simmer down. I can get pretty bent out of shape about this topic, but I don’t need to be! And how to respond appropriately is exactly what I’d love to unpack.
Whenever I have struggled with depression, various people have reached out to support and care for me. I often felt like they wanted to come beside me and lift any burden that they could. However, there were times when these well-meaning people would try to encourage me, but something about what they said or did frustrated me even more. They might have offered clichés like I mentioned above, given advice, or even quoted Scripture. I knew these people were trying to show their care, but they would often use Scripture verses out of context or would use phrases that were not at all encouraging. This means that I would get upset or angry in response to their attempted encouragement and I’d just feel worse.
How have I specifically reacted to these clichés in the past? I’d usually go through a several step process. My initial reaction to the person would be shocked to the point of being unable to think straight or feel properly. I often wouldn’t respond because I didn’t know HOW to respond. Once the conversation had moved on and I was physically away from that person, I would feel hurt, unheard, and think “how could they say that to me?” So, I’d get angry about my perception of how insensitive he/she was. Next, I’d try to calm myself down, giving them the benefit of the doubt by reminding myself that what was said was out of a desire to help me. And then, I’d sweep it under the rug and try to ignore it, only to have my anger resurface the next time someone said something similar.
It started to get to the point that I didn’t want people to encourage me. I didn’t even want people to try to say something nice, because I felt like certain people were just hurting me with their attempts to help. I recognized that people would inevitably say something offensive to me, and most of the time, would have no idea that they had done anything to upset me. I know that I’m a culprit of this and have offended many people without meaning to. So, how are we to react? What does the Bible say about responding to hurts either intentional or accidental? What should we do with our frustration towards others? We have to take our anger and offense to the Lord and lay it down at His feet. He can take our hurt and will take it so that we can be free in our hearts and minds. And we can learn how to speak up with gracious words. So, in the next several posts, I will attempt to answer these and other questions about how to receive encouragements from others that are less than encouraging. I’ll talk about the things that I experienced, how I responded, and how I can respond better in the future. I hope that this will be helpful to anyone who has experienced this as well.