20 Worst Things To Say To Someone Suffering

20 Worst Things To Say To Someone Suffering July 21, 2015

suzannetby Suzanne Titkemeyer cross posted from her blog Every Breaking Wave

As part of my adminning No Longer Quivering I have to stroll around the blogosphere a couple of times a day to see what’s going on. This morning I found this list posted at two different places. This list made me almost retch upon reading it. But I’ve been told that the list and posting was sarcastic. I hope so because these are some of the worst things I’ve seen that could be said to a struggling person.

The original posting was about how your friends can support you best when you leave your abusive husband. Granted, I’ve never had to do that, but I have gone through trauma, tragedy and pain, just like everyone else, and heard more than a few of these very unhelpful suggestions.

Okay, from the original blogger who I’m not going to name or link to because I really don’t want to start a beef. She’s been through enough bad times without adding to them even if she is promoting these poisonous ideas.

Top 20 Very Best Things to Say to Someone Who is Struggling

… because they just gained the courage to flee an abusive marriage.
  1. Have you tried … (taking a nap, eating, medication, more prayer…)
  2. God never gives us more than we can handle.
  3. The sun will come out tomorrow!
  4. Whatever you do, don’t try yoga (or antidepressants)… #causesdemonpossession
  5. You just need to submit more… to God, to your husband, etc
  6. I know just how you feel… fill-in-the-blank with non-abuse related incident, like: “I know just how you feel… my middle child was *so* colicky!”
  7. If you just trusted God more then none of this would have happened.
  8. You just need to try harder (read your Bible more, pray more, etc)
  9. Think positively!
  10. Things could always be worse!
  11. At least you aren’t experiencing… (insert 3 hour long personal story)
  12. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and move on!
  13. You aren’t really struggling; it’s all in your head!
  14. You must be in sin.
  15. It was the Lord’s will.
  16. Have you forgiven him?
  17. I just don’t want you to become bitter!
  18. Just remember, God is in control!
  19. The Lord works in mysterious ways…
  20. The storms will relent if you simply trust God and repent.
Or, you could simply say something like, “That must be so hard!  I can’t imagine what you are going through or how you are feeling, but I care and want to walk alongside you in this.”

Makes me just want to yell ‘Aw hell NO!” Here’s my thoughts on these.

  1. This one is one of the very few on this list that I have no trouble with. It’s natural to want to ‘fix’ or help someone you have mad love for or just simple friendship.
  2. Mouthing platitudes never helped anyone. This particular one merely minimizes the situation and the very real emotional pain of the sufferer.
  3. Another simple cliche that reduces whatever you are going through.
  4. Wow, just wow! Let’s see, anti depressants can actually help you get through trying times and there’s NO evidence of ‘demon possession’ from them. Evangelical fear mongering. Plus you know my thoughts on yoga already. Another ridiculous fear mongering over what is not understood.
  5. Submission never stopped a man that is abusing a woman, plus it’s another version of blaming and shaming a person for their own abuse by implying they are submissive enough.
  6. This one is actually not harmful so much as it is irritating. If you are going through hard times the last thing you want to hear is someone comparing your heart attack to their cut finger. Not helpful at all.
  7. Again, with the blaming the sufferer for own suffering.
  8. More saying that the sufferer is responsible for her/his own situation in a shaming and blaming way.
  9. This sort of denial of actual feelings and emotions can be harmful. If you suppress all your negative thoughts and emotions they’re going to eventually emerge in a much worse way. Better to deal with the way you feel and be honest with yourself than deny reality.
  10. Well yeah, they really could be worse, but how is that being encouraging of someone suffering through tragedy?
  11. See number six above.
  12. Don’t you think if the person dealing with hard times could do that they would have already? It’s disrespectful of that person and their journey to reduce it all down to simply.
  13. It goes beyond disrespectful to hostile, attacking and gas-lighting to suggest something is all in your head. If any friend of yours tries to throw shade at you with this line I suggest you immediately drop that friend because they are really no friend.
  14. Blaming and shaming is what many Evangelical Christians do best and this is that.
  15. Let’s keep God out of this. If a god wants to torture people to teach them a lesson then he’s not much of a god, more of a sadistic monster.
  16. How is being told you must forgive someone that abused you helpful? If there is forgiveness it needs to be freely given, not because someone else is pressuring you. It must also be in your own time as part of your healing journey. There are no time tables or hard and fast rules about forgiving an abuser. You may never get to that point of forgiveness and that’s okay too.
  17. Bitterness, another Evangelical-speak buzzword for not forgiving someone. See number sixteen.
  18. See number fifteen!
  19. See number fifteen again!
  20. More blaming and shaming. In this life we can do things perfectly, PERFECTLY, and still bad things can happen to us through no fault of our own.

Here’s twenty better things you can say to some one going through a great trial or tragedy.
  1. Have you remembered to eat, sleep or take care of yourself while this is going on?
  2. How can I help ease some of your burden right now?
  3. I know this looks bleak right now but maybe you should sleep on it before you make any hard and fast decisions?
  4. Is there something you love to do that could give you some relief from the stress and maybe make you feel a little better?
  5. Let me do something for you like bring you a meal or go with you when you file that restraining order.
  6. I understand you’re in pain.
  7. I know you did everything you could in this situation. Please don’t feel guilty.
  8. Rest might be the best thing for you right now.
  9. It’s normal to hurt or feel disappointed. You are still grieving about what happened.
  10.  I’m so sorry you are having to deal with this.
  11. I’m here for you.
  12. It’s going to take time to work through this.
  13. If you need a shoulder to cry on or just someone to listen to your feelings you can call me.
  14. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control.
  15. God doesn’t hurt us to teach us a lesson.
  16. You should concentrate on your own healing right now and not worry about anyone else.
  17. Would you like to get together and do something like go to the movies or shopping so you don’t have to think about all of this for a few hours?
  18. Please don’t isolate yourself in this time.
  19. I admire how you’re handling yourself in this difficult time. You’re so strong.
  20. Can I give you a little break by taking your children to the park for a few hours?

Sometimes a simple “I’m sorry” is the most powerful thing you can say.

What did I miss that needs to be on the list of things you should say?


Suzanne Titkemeyer is the admin of NLQ and also the wife of a man who had sense enough to recognize their church as a cult before dragging her out. She is a crazy old cat lady keeps busy with her grown children, her rescue animals, foster care animals and her love of all things art. Contrary to Fundy-Belief she’s usually smiling, laughing or smirking while swilling diet coke and dispensing sarcasm. She blogs at Every Breaking Wave and True Love Doesn’t Rape


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