I wrote before about trusting God while being broken
, but I have a lot of people ask me how they can help me or what I need from them. I decided that this is probably something that many people would benefit from knowing. So for what it's worth, here are a few things that you, a non-broken, can do for those of us who are.
Don't Compare My Pain with Your Own
The thing I really have a hard time with is the people who compare pain. "My pain is nothing compared to yours." "I can't complain after hearing what you've gone through." I spent many years not telling anyone what I was going through because I hated feeling as if I was one-upping or complaining about my life. Something that pain has taught me is that even a little bit can ruin the day. I don't need you to have the same pain, or even pain in the same way that I do, for us to have something in common.
Think about it this way. You and I have both been to India. You went to cities up north while I went to cities down south. You were there for a week; however, I've spent months within those borders. You flew into New Delhi and I flew through Mumbai. You were there on vacation and I spent my time there for missions. So here's the thing, we have two very different experiences in this country. Does that mean that there aren't similarities?
No matter what part of India you go to, the drivers are all crazy, the food uses the same spices, and the people for the most part look and dress the same. You will find the same caste system, languages, the same religions and culture. The specifics of each trip may be different, but these things we can relate with each other. You would have eaten curry, seen women dressed in saris, and been certain that your life would end in Indian traffic.
Pain is the same. You may not have dealt with the pain exactly the same way that I have, but you have felt pain at some point in your life. You may not have dealt with pain in the exact area or even the same kind of pain (physical vs emotional), but you have felt it. You may have only dealt with pain for a few weeks instead of a few years. You have still felt pain. Pain is pain no matter the parameters.
Empathy doesn't have to be exact, you just have to be willing to relate. When you shut down the conversation by assuming that you have nothing to offer, you shut down any chance we have of finding things in common and the possibility of a close friendship. This afternoon, I was talking to a friend and she made a comment that she had a running injury and knew what I meant when I said that sometimes you choose your shoes then your outfit based on how much pain you're in. She has talked about not understanding my chronic pain, but in that moment there was something that we could talk about and relate to. She could empathize with me.
So all of this to say. Minimizing your own pain doesn't help anything. It makes me feel bad, makes you feel bad, and messes with relationships. Your pain is just as valid and mine, you are worth having someone listen to your struggles simply because you're struggling. If you are willing to talk to me about your struggles, you can encourage me in mine. You may have a revelation that can help me in my journey. Everyone is broken; help me through my brokenness and maybe I can help you through yours.
Please Keep Inviting Me
How many times have you invited your broken friend to an event or hangout to have them decline? How many times do you continue to invite them before it's just time to move on? I promise this issue is just as hard on the broken as the non. I don't like spending most nights at home alone, or watching my friends post on Facebook all about the wonderful time they all had together at the movies or out to dinner. Feeling forgotten adds to the pain. The problem is that I just can't sometimes...well a lot of the time.
What I am about to say isn't really fair to you, but let's be real, living with constant pain isn't really fair to me. So here it is: you need to just bite the bullet and keep inviting your broken friend not matter how many times they say no. There is some part of choosing to love the broken that means being selfless and understanding that we come with a lot of hard things to love. We say yes as often as we possibly can. If we can handle going out, we will. Most of the time, if we say no its simply because we have nothing left in us to give.
Please also don't think that its personal. We want to go out! OH HOW WE WANT TO GO OUT!! There are just so many things we have to think about when we go out. These are the things that I think about: Is the place handicap friendly? How many steps are there? How many people will be there and do I have to worry about people knocking me over? Do I have to keep my leg in an uncomfortable position for very long? If we are having dinner, do I have to navigate a buffet or is the food on the table? Do I have to do a bunch of small talk and cover my pain or can I be transparent?
So again, if you are going to choose to love a broken, please choose to continue to invite us to things, even if we may say no. Please don't forget us. You can skip the invitation to the mountain climbing event, or the 25-mile bike ride. I obviously can't do that. However, I would love to go to a movie, or have dinner, or just sit and talk...IF I HAVE THE ENERGY. Please keep asking, please please please keep asking.
Now this one piggybacks off of the last one. It really is ok to ask us questions. I don't mind talking about all this...obviously. There is so much that can be learned by direct and honest conversation. If people would take the time to find out what my limitations are, they would know what kind of things to invite me to. If people asked what restaurants were easiest for me to go to, or which movie theatre was the best for me, or even if they knew the basics of what I need then I would be able to go out more. If you are willing to love a broken, that includes choosing to do things differently because our whole life is about different. Everything we do is done differently than you. So take the time to simply ask your broken what exactly they need.
Don't Take Away What I Can Do
This one is pretty straight forward. There are so many things in this life that I can't do. I can't walk without help, I can't shower without sitting down, I can't carry my plate from the kitchen to the living room unless I'm in my wheelchair, and its goes on and on. So, here's the deal, when there is something that I can do...LET ME DO IT! I've learned to get the door for myself, drive, and I'm sure there are other things. There are so few things that I can do myself that when you insist on doing them for me or get mad or offended when I don't let you help, it strips me of another thing I can do. I feel helpless enough; please don't make it worse. Let me be useful where I can be useful. I'm useless enough.
So, there you go. Practical ways to love the broken. These are just a few of the many ways that you can love the broken. Honestly, the reason I choose these four is they have come up in conversation lately. I don't think about these things, I live them every day. I don't realize how things people do affect me until it happens. I am sure more things will come up and when they do, I will let you know about them. But for now, that's enough.