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October 21, 2015

Cheer Me Down

empathy“Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound.” (Proverbs 25:20 NLT)

All emotions need to be self-regulated—even the seemingly positive ones, like compassion, or cheerfulness.

Sounds a bit weird, perhaps. We live in an age of rampant awareness of people’s pain, right alongside scores of proven paths to happiness. So, if we know the evidence-based way to make you feel better, and we also know all about your Facebook-documented struggles, we can and should easily cheer you up with a helpful comment, correct?

Not exactly. When I’m really hurting, I don’t want to read your helpful Footprints poem, or hear Pharell sing “Happy.” Maybe later, but not now.

More often than not, when we try to cheer people up, the goal is not easing their pain—it’s about easing our anxiety about their pain. It’s very difficult to simply be with someone, to walk alongside them, and allow them the dignity of grieving their pain and working through their struggle.

Difficult, but loving.

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