“I know you can’t solve my problem Gina, but just listening to me really helps.” My friend was facing a difficult situation, and she said those words to me.
And she was right. As much as I wanted to, I had no solution for her. Unfortunately, we live in a world with problems that aren’t always easily solved. Oh, how I wish it were different. I feel so helpless at times.
However, I think I had forgotten the power of commiseration. By telling me that my listening was valuable, my friend pointed out that I still had something to offer. Shutting my mouth and hearing her and only saying, “Yeah. That’s awful. I hate this too,” is more helpful than I realized.
I have my go-to phrases where I tell friends not to worry. I say (big smile): “We survive and come through hard times stronger!” It may be nice and true, but it also sounds like a cliché, unhelpful greeting card.
I think about past conversations when I’ve vented to close friends, and how much I benefited when they would enthusiastically agree, “WOW! THAT’S TERRIBLE.” One friend especially! To this day, I know her eyes will get big and she will really emphasize her words of concern for me. I am so comforted by it, because I feel she is jumping with me right into the mess. And it is soothing for three reasons:
Isn’t it nice when we can help solve other people’s problems? But if we can’t, or we aren’t asked to, empathy is still such a powerful gift.
During this hard time, when pain is all around us, and we can’t magically make everything better, I needed to be reminded of this fact. And I thought I’d share, in case you needed it too.
Stay safe and take care of yourself and others…
Creator of Love, Auntie.