If You Care, You Can Help!

People who are facing difficulties sometimes choose to talk with a “professional” about it – a psychologist, physician or pastor. But more often, people go to their friends first. If a friend in need calls you, don’t panic. I understand that having someone share difficult issues, painful experiences or intense emotions can be intimidating because you don’t think you know enough to help. But the good news is, when a friend comes to you and pours out their heart about a problem in their life, you don’t have to have all the answers. The most important thing is that you care.

The listening and caring professions are thriving because people have a deep need to be heard and understood. Sometimes factual information and intervention are needed in order to solve a problem, but many of the issues people face in their relationships just need to be talked out with someone who cares. Parents of toddlers or teens need to be able to talk to someone who knows what it’s like to deal with kids who are at those stages of life. People going through difficult times at work need an understanding colleague who will encourage them to stay strong when things get rough. At times, the most comfort comes from learning that you’re not alone – others have gone, or are going through, the same struggles, frustration and doubts.

Another benefit of being a willing sounding-board while your friend airs a problem is that people often gain clarity and even solve their own problems by working them out verbally. Thoughts that have been spinning around chaotically seem to fall into place when they are put into words. Many times, all you have to do is be there with a caring attitude.

Friends who come to you with serious issues of abuse, addictions, physical pain or threats of suicide should be referred to a professional helper. Caring can be put into action by encouraging them to get professional help or by assisting with researching options for counseling, temporary shelter, or medical intervention. You may also be able to help by going with them, babysitting their children or assisting in other practical ways.

On a day to day basis, however, most people who want to talk about their struggles don’t need professional help or emergency intervention. They just need a friend who cares enough to be honest, open and encouraging – but mostly, someone who cares enough to be available.

Henri Nouwen sums it up so well: The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.

You can be that friend!

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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