When her teammate went down in the middle of a game, our daughter immediately ran to her side. Her first aid training kicked in, and she tried in vain to get her friend to slow her breathing. Shock and pain overwhelmed her teammate, though, and all our girl could do was sit by and cry for her.
Afterward, she lamented her helplessness to me. “I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t do anything for her,” she sighed.
“You did the best thing you could. You were with her. She didn’t need you to fix her. She needed you to be there.”
Unconvinced, she continued, “But it was so hard to see her in pain, and I couldn’t help.”
And there is the heart of the issue.
Our Desire to Fix
When we see others in pain, something in us desires to help. That desire is good. It’s God-given.
But often our desire to help is really a desire to fix. It’s a desire for the bad situation to simply not be true.
It seems right, even good, to fix, doesn’t it? It feels like helping. Really, though, it’s usually avoiding. We struggle to sit in places of shalom shattered, both for ourselves and others.
It reminds us that we are not in control. We feel our helplessness. We feel their pain.
Yet there’s something we can offer in these moments that is precious and valuable. We can offer our presence. And that can be enough.
Offering Our Presence
Recently I was in a small group for my spiritual formation program. We were asked to introduce ourselves to each other, and then sit in silence for two minutes afterward. One person shared quite vulnerably, even to the point of tears.
And after sharing, we sat there without saying a word to her. It felt both awful and right.
Awful, because we wanted to enter into her pain, to comfort and empathize, to say, “Yeah, I get that. Me too.”
But also right, because it meant no one spoke a word out of turn. No one offered platitudes or tried to rescue her from something God might be doing. It felt like enough to just be together, to be human with one another.
M. Craig Barnes, in his book, Yearnings, says, “We don’t mend each other’s brokenness, we just hold it tightly.”
What a relief! It’s not up to us to fix each other. While it’s hard to see someone else in pain, wrestling, confused, unsettled, whatever it is, we aren’t being asked to take it away. God has his eyes on all of us. He sees. He knows.
And so our invitation is to simply hold each other tightly. Be there. Be there right away. Cry with them. That is enough.