Elephant in the room. Awkward silence. Call it what you may but you know what I’m talking about – those times when the air hangs thick with conversation that should be, held back by hesitation and uncertainty. And there are certainly circumstances that lend themselves to more of these experiences than others. Carrying a baby with a fatal diagnosis to term, for example …
People often express to me, and maybe even more often to my family members whom they feel more comfortable asking, that they want to ask how I’m doing but are afraid to make me sad or “remind” me (could I forget?) of my current life situation. I always tell them to just ask, it’s totally fine. But I realized recently there is more to this short, simple answer.
In truth, the answer is complicated. Could you trigger my tears that day by asking me how things are going? Possibly. Could you make my thoughts jump from focusing on my current task to the impending sadness up ahead? Maybe. Could you stumble over your words and end up crying yourself? Yeah, that might happen too. But the problem with the opposite – the problem with silence – is that it can communicate a lack of caring. And that hurts.
Truthfully, there is no easy answer here. “Remind” them and make them cry, or don’t mention anything and make them wonder if you care or ever think about the gravity of their situation. I don’t know. But as for me, I might err on the side of showing someone I care and ask rather than not. And, as it has before, I might leave that conversation feeling like a big dummy and wish I hadn’t opened my mouth at all. In that instance though I just pray, Lord you knew my heart going into that conversation. Please allow them to have seen it too.
Suffering is hard. There is no easy answer about how to go about it. There may even be times when the above advice is horribly wrong. But the Bible says we are to weep with those who weep. And Scripture is also pretty clear about showing our love for one another. And you never know what sort of need you are meeting or what bridge you are building by just being brave enough to speak.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue … Proverbs 18:21
What do you think? If you’ve been in a difficult life spot would you give the same advice?