How To Help The Hurting

NOTE: This post is reblogged from my friend Debbie over at Two Minutes Of Grace. We can all learn something from Debbie’s sage advice about how to help people who are hurting. We certainly have opportunities every day to meet people who are hurting. Enjoy. And be blessed.

We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. ~ C.S. Lewis

We’re often at a loss when it comes to coming along side someone who is hurting. In this post, and the next, I’ll share a few suggestions. Sometimes it’s helpful to look at what comes naturally that doesn’t help before moving on to some ideas that might be more useful. Here’s a partial list of things not to do if we want to encourage a person who’s experiencing emotional or physical pain.

  • Don’t view pain as a teaching moment.

Be sensitive and compassionate in your use of Bible verses and exhortations. We are very hard of hearing when we’re suffering. Leave the megaphone to God.

  • NEVER say: I know how you feel

Of course you don’t. Each person’s pain is unique.

When you’re hurting, I have no idea how you’re feeling no matter how similar I may think our experiences are because I’m not you.

It’s tempting (and often preached) to try to understand how someone else is feeling by walking a mile in their shoes; putting yourself in their place etc… In other words, I should try to understand how you’re feeling by thinking about me. But I’m not you!

While we may have gone through similar situations, every other experience that has led you to this moment has shaped you into who you are and how you experience emotional or physical pain.

In our eagerness to show empathy, we often share our story, inadvertently changing the focus of the conversation from the other person to ourselves.

  • Toss the cliché’s

Time heals all wounds. Time isn’t magical.

What doesn’t kill you makes you strongerBlatantly untrue. What doesn’t kill you will change you but it may or may not make you stronger.

Other’s have it so much worse. Comparing pain is minimizing.

You need to be strong. Why? For whom? What does that even mean?

Take care of yourself. Don’t tell a hurting person what they need to do when they’re already doing all they can to hang on.

Your loved one wouldn’t want you to be sad. Completely irrelevant (and may or may not be true). This moment is about the hurting person, not someone else.

I’m sorry for your loss. This isn’t all bad, but the word loss is problematic and once again, minimizing. Try just I’m so sorry (leaving off the loss). It’s genuine and doesn’t sound like you picked it up on Law and Order. 

In the next post I’ll share a few thoughts on ways to help and encourage someone who is hurting.

11 thoughts on “How To Help The Hurting

  1. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic
    to be really something which I think I would never understand.

    It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me.

    I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the
    hang of it!


  2. Great post. You are so right. We need to get rid of so many cliche’s. If someone is hurting, and you are at a loss for words, just hold that person’s hand, and offer up a prayer. Those who hurt, want that pain to go away, scat, leave, etc. They are numb, oblivious to their surroundings, and unable to focus. One must be sensitive to their most pressing need. Let them talk, vent, get angry, yell at the top of their lungs,blame someone. They need that outlet. They are the only ones who can tell, when things will get better, not you. Good read! Blessings.


      1. Thank you. This reply may seem inane, but I try to reply to every comment. I like to see that little arrow next to the comment. You may even see something as simple as a :0), even if I’ve already commented to you. I just want to make sure that everyone who comments receives a comment from me. Hope that’s okay. God bless.


    1. I know she helped me a lot. I think she’s writing another post on How to help someone who”s hurting now that she’s written one on how NOT to help.


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