Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Stones And Bones

I must not have been more than five years old when I came to my mother for some help. Someone had hurt my feelings. They had called me names. That was the first time that my mother ever gave me bad advice.

Her remedy was for me to say to my tormentors, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." It sounds good, because it rhymes, but in practice it just doesn't provide the comfort that's intended.

The truth is that words do hurt. They hurt when you are five and they hurt when you are fifty-five. Words will probably hurt when you are ninety-five. That is, if you can still hear them. So why is it that mothers and others offer the empty wisdom of "Stones and Bones?" Why deny the reality of how injurious the things that we say can be?

This morning a woman told me she just didn't know what to say to someone who is depressed. I told her that there are things NOT to say, and there are encouraging words that will help.

What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Depressed
(a compilation of my ideas and those of others)

01-"Stormy, you don't look crazy." (my personal favorite)

02-"You have it so good, why aren't you happy?"

03-"Christians with strong faith just don't get depressed."

04-"Stop feeling sorry for yourself."

05-"I thought that you were stronger than that."

06-"You don't look depressed."

07-"I would never believe that could happen to you."

08-"You shouldn't spend all of your time in bed. Get out and do something!"

09-"You would never catch me seeing a shrink."

10-"I know how you feel. I was depressed once for several days."

11-"Just pull yourself up and get on with life."

12-"If you are depressed, you must be guilty of some sin."

13-"I would just keep quiet about it. Don't embarrass your family."

14-etc., etc.

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18)."
["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]


Neva said...

Amen!! When my husband died, a lady told me she knew how I felt because she grieved for days after her cat died. And one of the inlaws told my son he would be apart of the family until I remarried.
People are so thoughtless with their words. It is almost as if they cannot hear themselves. I want to believe they say stupid things because they dont know what to say rather than they are just meanspirited.
I think. . .if anyone can live with depression, it is christians, because we have God and we have each other. Hopefully we minister to each other and help each other in the dark times. I cannot imagine experiencing it all alone. Thank you for letting me vent on your blog.
Peace and prayers my brother,

Bob Bliss said...

Will you do a follow up as to what you would like to have heard from fellow Christians? Or maybe you've done that in an earlier post? As a preacher (29 years) I would welcome any opportunity to know how to help my fellow Christians when they are hurting.

Neva, I'm sorry that some spoke thoughtless words to you during your time of hurting. I worked with a volunteer chapel association in Northern Jersey years ago. The best advice I got during that time was to never tell patients horror stories about others with the same illness. Years later when my son (then 15) was in the hospital with appendicitis, a volunteer chaplain came in to visit us. When he discovered my son's illness he proceeded to tell both us about a local high school quarterback who died on the field while playing when his appendix burst. That chaplain is fortunate that I am a Christian because I wanted to wring his neck. I saw first hand why that advice is necessary.

I hope that I am never careless or thoughtless with my words around fellow Christians when they are hurting.

brianicklaus said...

sincerity mixed with ignorance can can a dangerous thing.

it is difficult to recognize one's good intentions when they give you the equivalent of a punch in the gut with their words.

jobs friends were best when they sat in silence, they messed up soon after opening their mouths.

I, too, would appreciate advice in the positive.