Holding Space with People

We live in a ‘me too’ community. It feels good to connect with someone who shares our struggles and experiences life like us. But when we’re hurting, ‘me too’ isn’t what we want to hear. Good intentions may be behind the phrases we use with hurting people. However, in a place of excruciating pain, good intentions are not welcome.

A few weeks ago my younger sister came to me with her struggles. The sadness and frustration she was experiencing moved my tears and emotions to say things I thought would heal the wounds. Instead, it hurt her heart.

How often do you try to step in and speak while someone is sharing a story of sickness and strife?

In the midst of turmoil, words will do more damage to a vulnerable soul than your own silence.

No matter what you sprinkle into the content that comes out of your lips, a troubled heart can’t hear the humanity in it when their focus is on the heartache. And that’s where many of us go wrong with our words when we try to talk to hurting people.

“Healer” is not your job title.

Our desire to feel close and connect with people may even find a story to artificially join in with ‘me too’ experience here. This is merely a self-centered strategy to shift the focus and create a shared conversation.

The reality is we can never fully understand someone else’s pain. It is physically impossible for you to experience their story in it’s entirety, no matter how similar the situations may be.

We have to step out of this tendency to view someone else’s struggle through the lens of our own evaluation. We operate out of what we want versus understanding what a distressed heart needs.

Healing happens when we hold space with people.

Compassion helps us lean in with our ears and get comfortable with the dead air.

It’s difficult. Sometimes I don’t see the ‘right’ in it. Then Jesus gives a little nudge. This isn’t about me. This is about my friend. What does she need?

Let me squeeze into this crawl space with her and see the circumstances from where she sits. Instead of calling her out of this place, I just need to climb in.

As you read this, maybe a friend came to mind who has been struggling through some desperate times. Go there. Climb into the darkness with her instead of calling her out.

Perhaps there’s a sting in your soul where you have fallen short of being a compassionate friend, like me. The conclusion to this story is that I went back to that place with my sister and used my knees to find her. Using less words and more tears this time, I admitted my wrongs and asked if I could join her. “So with a final breath in this quiet space, I want you to know that I am comfortable with dead air,” I whispered.

Trisha Keehn

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Trisha Keehn

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