Spiritual Questions - God, I’m Fine With

God, I’m Fine With. But These People…!

OK, so you’re right in the midst of the worst experience of your life, and to add insult to injury, the people you thought you could depend on are being colossally unhelpful.  It happens all the time. With friends, congregations, neighbors, coworkers, family members.

True fact #1: people are going to say unhelpful things to you.  Every day.

True fact #2: people are going to do unhelpful things for you, thinking they are helping.

Here’s what’s really going on: you’re sick, or your loved one is sick, or someone has died.  That has turned your world upside down. And, like the ripples from a stone thrown into the water, your tragedy has reverberated into the lives of those around you.  It makes them sad for you. It makes them frightened.  It makes them feel guilty about their own happy, healthy lives. It makes them want desperately to help you and make everything all better again.  It makes them lose their minds just a little bit, and say stupid things in an effort to make you feel better.

And so your well-meaning neighbor says, “God must have needed another angel.”  And your coworkers decorate your cubicle with pink breast cancer ribbons. And your cousins – all fifteen of them – each bring tuna noodle casseroles to your house.  And the people in your church/synagogue/mosque/temple/elsewhere smile and don’t ask how you’re doing.

If you know what you need, it’s completely OK to tell people.  In fact, it will probably be a relief for them.  Your cousins, congregation members, and coworkers want to do something, and they’re probably all struggling with what to do, or whether just to give you your space.  So if there’s something that you need, or something you need them to stop doing, try telling them.

If, as is very likely, you have no idea what you need, that’s OK.  The truth is, they don’t know what you need, and neither do you.  You may know in the moment, though: as soon as you see all those pink ribbons, you might know that that is the last thing you need. And it’s completely ok to say that.  Even if you’re a bit gruff about it.  Just say, “Thanks, guys, but I just can’t look at all those right now.”  And if you need to talk, pull a friend aside and say, “I need to talk.”  And if, just as quickly, you can’t bear to talk about it, just tell your friend, “I can’t talk about it right now.”  Your needs are likely to change as quickly as your emotions.