After speaking to our moms group at church on the “Challenges of Life,” I thought I would post a few of the practical suggestions I shared on how to help a friend or family member facing a crisis situation. My definition of crisis is fairly broad, but basically it entails a situation where you require acute, urgent care for spiritual, emotional, mental or physical issues.
To broaden the spectrum of advice, I also opened the question up to a few Facebook groups, so have given credit to those specific women as well. Much of this advice has been gleaned in the trenches, though … where I was facing everything from multiple surgeries, to thyroid cancer, to corporate layoffs … to helping women when a marriage crumbled or an addiction was overtaking their family.
I pray that you are blessed as you seek to be a blessing to others!
When you’re helping a friend face a personal crisis … here’s what NOT to do:
• Don’t offer to do something you truly would never want to do, or feel guilted into doing. Offer help from your areas of strength and passion.
• Don’t use scripture clichés. Try to not give any kind of advice initially. The time for that will come when she can actually hear your wise words.
• Don’t ask, “Can I do anything?” Be specific about what you’d be willing to do, OR pray for someone else to do. Ask if you can bring dinner, pick up a child, buy groceries, run your vacuum on her floor. (from Kelly Combs)
• Don’t say, “I know exactly how you feel.” … unless you’re a Siamese twin! (from Laurie Wallin)
• Don’t avoid contact (phone, e-mail, text, FB, etc.) just because you don’t know what to say. It’s perfectly okay to say, “I’m so sorry about what happened. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” Be a good listener.
• Don’t take life too seriously. Humor can relieve tension, too!
• Avoid “Shoulda-ing” all over them, OR yourself. We’re only human! (Leslie Rose & I both had this on our list!) Leslie added that unrequested advice “often brings shame … so your advice doesn’t help. Instead, couch your ‘advice’ in ‘I’ statements.” Something to the effect of “I went through something similar and what helped me was …” and so on.
• Avoid asking closed-ended questions. (e.g., “So you’re OK now, right?”) How is she supposed to answer that? Yes/no questions don’t really help her share her heart.
• Don’t be just a “peacekeeper” who strictly avoids conflict. Pray for wisdom. Be willing to be a “peace-maker” and risk short-term relational pain for long-term healing and gain.
• Don’t think that you can meet all her needs, and don’t feel badly when you don’t. Everyone has gifts to share and a person in crisis needs gifts from a lot of different people. (From Shona Neff)
• Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to speak honestly. Don’t be afraid to risk the friendship to save the friend. (From Ellen Stevens)
Have you benefited from friends helping you before? Anything you wish they would have done differently? I’d love to hear your feedback!