“What you’re going through isn’t as awful as you think it is. And if you just had more faith or a more positive attitude, you would feel better. You need to cheer up and remember this is all for the best. I know, because my situation was much worse and I made it through joyfully. So if you need me for anything, advice or otherwise, just call.”
If those words don’t sound horrifying to you, perhaps you have never been the recipient of unhelpful “help.” I have been on the receiving end of insensitive comments and it’s been painful. But if I’m honest, I’ve offered untold thoughtless remarks as well.
We all want to support our friends who are struggling. We all want to offer the perfect insight that transforms their perspective. We all want to help them find joy in the present. But in our attempts to comfort, we often say the wrong thing, adding to their pain instead of alleviating it. I know because I’ve done that. Far too often.
When we dispense that kind of “help,” our friends feel judged, misunderstood, and lonely. Their burden feels heavier, not lighter. They don’t know if they can trust their hearts with anyone.
From being wounded to wounding others, I’ve learned five things not to do when a friend is suffering.
There are countless ways to minimize another’s suffering, and most of them involve implying what she is going through really isn’t that bad. It’s not as bad as she is making it seem, not as bad as other people’s problems, and not as bad as it could be.1