Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c) 2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
If you are a thoughtful listener, you are rare. Much of the time we consider what to say more than what to hear.
Imagine you tell me your work day was difficult. What response would you like?
“Oh, it can’t have been as bad as my day.” OR “Oh that’s too bad, what happened?”
Likely, the second one leaves you feeling more cared for and heard.
There’s a third, best option
A mother of grown sons entered the support group room with about ten of us. She was anxious, and depressed. Her sons lived with her and their father, and refused to move out. Without jobs, they stole their parents’ money, mooched their food, and left messes for them to clean up. At one point, she had locked the refrigerator only to have them break it to take her groceries.
She felt helpless because her husband silently endorsed and enabled their sons’ behavior. Her attempts at holding them accountable fell flat when their father consistently rescued them from responsibility.
Frustrated, many times the mother tried to express her needs and valid concerns to her family, and was met with anger and insult. When I met her, she was nearing her emotional limit.
Surrounded by sympathetic and empathetic listeners, her feelings were not dismissed. No one tried to fix her or compare her pain to theirs. Instead, members of the group nodded, believing her thoughts and emotions. Whatever she said, her words were accepted without argument or advice.
It’s a miracle
She left renewed with strength to make and stand by decisions necessary to save herself. It is a type of miracle in my opinion, when a person blossoms simply because they are heard.
Thoughtful listening. It is selfless and effective. Perhaps the most powerful gift we can offer to a struggling friend is to listen without words.
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.