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Don’t Come Crying to Me: How can Pain make us Better Friends?

Sometimes those of us who have had very serious struggles can have some hang ups when it’s time to show compassion to our friends. Not all of us, and not always, but there are those times when our friends or family are facing difficulties and we end up doing or saying the very things we complain about people doing/saying to us when we are in need of support.

Why don’t we know better? Spoonies may even be the worst at this. Has anyone ever said, “I shouldn’t be complaining to you about my little ______.” I have come to believe that this is a problem. If anyone should be hearing out someone’s difficult day of not feeling well or emotionally struggling, don’t you think it should be someone who can empathize with feeling crummy? Yes, even if it’s a cold!

We who have gone through our daily battles, we who have lived in survival mode on and off for so long, and then when a loved one falls into his/her own valley: shouldn’t we be the best people for the job of lending an ear? But in stead, we listen to that little voice that says, “Are they kidding me with this?” Or, we try to give them our sage advice to protect them from what is coming. We may know some of what they are facing, but we aren’t them. They have a unique struggle, isolated from ours. Their pain, however similar or maybe seemingly less than ours, is relative to their own experiences in life. A struggle or illness that is tearing someone’s world apart, however lower on the pain scale we believe it is- still is shattering his/her life into pieces in ways we may never understand, and in ways we may never face. (see Proportional Pain and My Guilty Genes)

After surviving so many challenges, we often view others’ battles through the lenses of our own lives. Sometimes we go further than relating and into the realm of “been there lived that, bought a T-shirt.” Remember how, “I COMPLETELY understand” feels when someone says it to you on a bad day? It can feel even more isolating.

But we often do understand so many challenges because we have walked such a painful road of our own. We want to make sure our friends know they are not alone. We can be close by emotionally, available, and most of all: COMPASSIONATE. We don’t need to remind them how much pain we also have felt, or how many times we have been in their shoes. We don’t need to compare horror stories or solve their problems every time they have an issue we believe we can solve. Compassion is the language that tells your loved one that they are not walking their harsh road alone.

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I have to confess that this was written in response to a few of my own very dear loved ones recently facing some challenges. I fear I am guilty of failing them in all of the above ways in attempts to “help” when I should be the one person who knows how to handle their pain and grief, shouldn’t I? However, they have been teaching, growing experiences that I am thankful for. In the beginning years of my illness, I used to get secretly annoyed with people for even talking about their allergies in my presence. But now, I want to be the person people come to for comfort. I pray I can continue learning to be a humble, caring, compassionate friend for those I love so much.

“If pain doesn’t lead to humility, you have wasted your suffering.”

-Katerina S. Klemer

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Passengers Conceptual Photograph by Elle Moss | Grant me Compassion in my Friendships

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