shut up while i hurt

shut up while i hurt cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“Someone Cares” (drawing by nakedpastor David Hayward)

(***You can own a fine art print of this cartoon called “Someone Cares”. Go to my online shop if interested!)

One of the greatest compliments I could ever receive as a pastor was when someone would say to me in the midst of their struggle, “We so appreciate you just being here and not trying to fix things or make us feel better.”

On the other end of the spectrum, let’s say my daughter is going through a struggle. As most parents can’t help doing, I sometimes go into rescue mode and try to tell her what she should do. She might say something like, “Dad, I don’t need you to preach. Just be with me and listen.”

Suffering is a part of life. Struggle is inevitable. Pain is predictable. Even though we might wish for the opposite, most of us know there are no easy answers. Some know there are NO answers. The best thing we can offer hurting people is our presence. Just being with people who are struggling.

After all, that’s what compassion literally means! “Com” = “with”, and “passion” = “suffering”.

Suffer with people. That is truly incarnational. And that is why this is the essence of the gospel story.

Here’s an invitation: I invite you to consider joining The Lasting Supper, an online community full of amazing people who know how to suffer with others without judgment or advice!

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  • Gary

    So difficult…but so very true. I think sometimes it is our love and compassion that compels us to try to “fix it” for those we care about. But when there is no fix (or when it is simply not time) it can come across as impatience or even a kind of condemnation for the suffering.

    Sometimes the truest expression of love is silence.

  • Pat68

    True. So many who want to dive in with their well-intentioned advice or opinion have no idea that often they’re adding to your pain, not helping to make it better. Also, it’s pretty selfish when the default mode seems to be to defend a position rather than listening sympathetically.

  • klhayes

    Yes, it is hard but necessary to know when to just be quiet and listen.

  • Yeah David, you’re entirely right it would be completely foolish to try to alleviate the emotional pain of someone having lost a loved one by giving theological or philosophical reasons.

    I realize in my own life it is quite liberating to recognize my ignorance, intellectual limitations and lack of knowledge. There are many topics we should be very humble about and only approach with fear and trembling.

    But it is a growth process, we are bound to always make mistakes which can profoundly hurt other people.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

  • I can not agree more. I think it is an especial male trait to do fixing too! (self-incriminating). As a medical provider, I am suppose to “solve” my patient’s suffering either with a drug, a knife or life-style advice. But many times, I can’t fix it — instead, I have learned to just be there with them, hurting with them — exhausting as that can be.

    I was totally with you on your post until your last paragraph when you tried to Christianize the whole universal principle and said, “That is truly incarnation.”

    You see, if there is an all-powerful, loving and intervening God, then unlike my feeble medical interventions, he could just fix the problems, why come and suffer with us. Fixing them would be so much more kind. Hell, even I’d do that and I ain’t no god. It makes no sense.

    I understand how using an idealized Jesus as a model to help learn to suffer with others can be useful, but it seems like such a twist in a story which is bizarre unless it is revised as you do.

  • Brandi Eissinger

    I think I’m going to print this one out (on something heavy) and beat my husband over the head with it 🙂 Many people want to “fix” things (my husband being one of them)… but you’re right. Most often that isn’t what we’re looking for. We just need to know someone is there. Or, at least, I do.

  • Pat68

    It’s a female trait too. Maybe it taps into the mothering instinct? I just know that some women are equally as bad as trying to make things better for people. I know I used to do it with a friend that was a chronic complainer until I woke up and realized that often her complaints were just her way of venting and I was exhausting myself emotionally for someone who wasn’t necessarily asking for help or answers.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    There is part of a post I made on the TLS page that is extraordinarily relevant, but I’m going to adapt here instead of quote.

    You have every right to hurt and be in pain, and there are times where you have to go it alone and feel it in full. Depression and suffering suck horrendously. When you fall and fall hard onto the bottom of a pit, it will be painful. But here’s the most beautiful thing when you hit bottom.


    You can get back up at any time, or you can feel the floor and just allow yourself to get past the numbness that eases into ache and pain. Even if you can’t get up, you still have a solid surface on which to rest or prepare yourself to get up later. You can pace yourself.

    What immediately comes to mind with this cartoon are two things – the Ten of Swords in most tarot decks, and the parable of the Prodigal Son.

    For the former, the card is not just about victim mentality, but also being pinned down by circumstance and self, bleeding and feeling the worst pain possible. It’s about suffering that’s caused by self and others and nothing at all, and it all equally sucks, but you can get back up. It can take as long as it needs to, but you can get back up.

    The latter takes a little more to explain. Fathers in Jesus’ time would never have run out like the dad did in this parable. Everything the father did would have been unheard of, even going to the other son who refused to join in the welcome home party. The son who realized he messed up found his rock bottom and his father was, in a way, there to help him get back up and walk out the pain and embarrassment. He was willing to share in the pain, the father.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Incarnation does not imply Christianization, but its real meaning. Birth. Rebirth.

  • David:
    Did you take down your post of 9/27/13 about Warren?

  • nope. it’s still there.

  • Ah, OK. For some reason my browser couldn’t get to just that one for about 30 minutes. It is OK now.