I met with a new friend recently and she shared a struggle with me that I can empathize with, though not to the degree in which she bears it. I listened to her talk, really listened, and I noticed a couple things.
I wasn’t judging her, which I’m really grateful for.
I could see in myself how I could make similar choices if the situations arose.
And I wasn’t sitting there, while she was talking, thinking of all the things I needed to tell her to do.
In fact, when she finished, this is what I said, “I have some random thoughts, but only if you want them.” I’ve mentioned this before, but this is one of the greatest lessons I learned in AlAnon. Only give advice if asked. Ground-breaking, really. So I asked her permission to share what I was thinking, and she said yes.
I then said, “Five years ago, I would have just told you what you should do. But I’m not going to do that.” I’ve learned that you can tell someone something til you’re blue in the face but until they come to that realization on their own and in their own time, it just won’t matter. That’s why people go to rehab so many times. That’s why the final time – the time that actually works – tends to be the time that they got themselves there as opposed to being mandated or coerced or ultimatum’d into it.
So I didn’t tell her what to do. I just told her what I would probably do. What I believe after living forty-three-and-a-half years. What pain I went through when I made some of the choices she’s making, how I want to make different choices in the future if given the opportunity. And what I believe the Bible says about the topic and why I think God says it.
And then instead of a long list of things to do, or a long list of things to stop doing, I asked her a question. “I don’t want to put words in your mouth but do you think this could be — ?” She said yes. “So maybe you might want to look into — ?”
And I gave her a question to ask Jesus, “Jesus, what do you want me to do about this?” I told her that I wasn’t saying this with condemnation. I said it because I could already tell that her heart wants to do what Jesus would want for her, because I could already tell that she knows that Jesus loves her and wants the best for her.
And then I told her that I don’t want her to get any more hurt than she already has. And that things like this usually lead to more hurt. And that if she wants to get her heart back and heal completely, this thing might be blocking the way.
And then I suggested she ask Jesus to heal her perceptions of this so that she begins to see it clearly and the way it’s supposed to be seen, and I told her I needed to do that too because though for different reasons, I am broken in the very same area.
I didn’t judge. I tried to listen well. I shared part of who I am. I gave some suggestions. I even threw in an Alias reference for good measure. This is not the way the Beth of five years ago would’ve handled that sensitive conversation. (So, I’m sorry to every woman who ever shared her heart with me before this season of my life.) I am softer, and hopefully kinder, and hopefully more empathetic, and hopefully more compassionate. Because that is what grace will do.
If my work has encouraged you and you’d like to partner with me as I reach out to help hurting women, click here for more information.