Time and again, I’ve seen the amazing transformation in someone who is deeply suffering (whether with pain, illness, or other pressures), when they receive a kind, uplifting, or unexpectedly positive remark from someone else. Part of this is, I think, because kindness is fundamentally, well, kind, and the response to it is of like tenor.
But another reason is, I think, a bit more complicated. If you live with chronic illness or pain, you take that with you everywhere, and it has a habit of reflecting in gestures, words, or expressions. So, when you met someone who is similarly suffering, your pain joins with theirs, in a sense, and soon your interaction can become just one, big, glopping swirl of pain. But it need not be; just as pain ampilfies pain, so too can kindness or an extension of encouragement defuse it.
A simple way to test this is in conversation with a friend. Here’s the first version:
“How are you?”
“Horrible. And life is just getting harder.”
“Oh, I know what you mean. I can’t believe the way my stress is just getting worse.”
“Yeah, and there’s no end in sight.”
Heavens, it makes me feel weighed down just be typing it! Now, here’s the second version:
“How are you?”
“Oh, the pain is terrible. But I’m glad you called.”
“I’m happy to hear that. I didn’t know if I’d be disturbing you, or if you were resting.”
“I was, but that’s okay. It’s always nice to hear from you.”
“Well, I was thinking of you. I really respect how you cope.”
“Thanks! It isn’t easy, but friends make it easier. ”
See how, right away, the caller and the called are acknowledging pain, but they also find a ray of encouragement for each other. A caring friend. An appreciative patient.
Yes, it can be as simple as that, and it can work with strangers, too. Smiling, holding the elevator, slowing down for someone who is moving more slowly than you are – these and other things are subtle but powerful ways of encouraging someone else. And in so doing, you can be encouraged that you’re living out your Christian walk and, perhaps, giving someone else the spark they need to ignite within them renewed hope.
Despite our pain and other health challenges, the more we seek to encourage others, the more we ourselves will be encouraged. We might not be able to banish our physical problems, but we can certainly lighten the load on our [emotional] hearts!
Blessings for the day,