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MOTM June 2015
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Discussion Starter #1
As a Christian, I know I've been unintentionally guilty of this myself. It's easy for me to understand that I dislike being on the receiving end, but I think it is equally important that I not do this to others. I don't think most really think about how hurtful or dismissive their comments may be.

I find that when these type of comments (listed below) are directed at me, they usually make me feel that the other person finds my problems irrelevant or that I'm sinning for even mentioning that I have struggles. I realize the other person probably means well, but it does not help when only platitudes are offered.

Being dismissive of the struggles of others only encourages them to hide their struggles and fears. This means those fears will fester and grow, they'll learn to see them self as an outsider. How does this help them? It doesn't, it only encourages them to isolate them self from other Christians.

 
Please note: I am not suggesting that we pretend sin isn't sin, but I am suggesting that perhaps it is important to acknowledge that we all sin, we all have things we struggle with and just because someone struggles with something that most don't, does not mean the struggle isn't very real for them.


I also realize that the other party may really want to help, but struggles to know how. Just please don't dismiss someone's concerns, fears, struggles, etc., because you don't have an answer or you can't personally relate. The fact that they aren't a struggle for you, or that you can't relate to them, doesn't mean they aren't very real struggles for the other person. It's fine and even preferable to say, I wish I knew what to tell you. I think most would rather hear this than to have their fears and concerns dismissed, or to be told they are sinning for having them.

It's all too easy to say things that really do nothing to help or encourage the other person. I think at times this happens because we don't really know what to say. Perhaps it happens because we think their worries are insignificant or unfounded, but that doesn't change the fact that the problems are real and distressing to them.

Please don't glibly offer these suggestions...


  • Turn it over to God ~While it is true that some things are beyond our ability to do anything about, just saying turn it over to God does little to alleviate fears and concerns. I recently expressed concern about my son being so far from home. I was instantly told, "turn it over to God." ​I cannot begin to tell you how much this little phrase annoyed me. It was as though the very idea that I might worry about my young adult son making wise decisions made me a sinner. How about saying something like, "It is always difficult when your children leave home. We have to trust that they will remember their training, and make wise decisions but I don't think we ever truly stop worrying about them ." Instead they made comments that came across as flippant and dismissive of my concerns. I wasn't even looking for them to offer me any advice. :rolleyes:


  • A Christian should be one of the happiest people in the world~first, there are many instances of followers of God in the bible who weren't always happy. Even though some of them talked directly to God, some still battled depression, and struggled with their faith on occasion. How does telling someone that they should be happy make it so? It seems to me that it is more about shaming them for being unhappy. While it is true that knowing about God and His love is a good thing, it does not prevent us from struggling at times. You don't need to know how to solve the persons problems, just let them know you are there when they need someone to talk to. Sometimes there really isn't anything you can do, they have to work it out them self. Just let them know you care, you're not passing judgement on them, look for little ways to let them know they're important to you.


  • Pray about it ~ This seems to make the assumption that they haven't been praying. Plus it does little to help them figure out what to do about it. Again, perhaps you don't know how to advise, and it is okay to admit this. Please don't just dismiss them or make them feel as though they are sinful because they are struggling. Do be honest and tell them you don't know how to help them, tell them you will pray and ask God to help you find a way to help them. Then actively look for ways. Most importantly don't make them feel like a sinful failure because they are struggling.


  • Put your trust in God ~ while it is true that we should put our trust in God, sometimes when the world feels like it is crashing down on us, this comment can feel quite dismissive.


  • It's a sin to worry ~ there are a lot of things that are sinful, pride, lack of compassion, arrogance, etc. How does telling them that it is a sin to worry make them feel anything but dismissed for having the worry? Does telling them they are a sinner help them through the difficult time? Aren't we all sinners?


  • All things work out for good for those who trust the Lord ~ there are so many things wrong with this statement, I don't know where to start. First, not all things will work out for good in this life. Yes, in heaven that will be true but we are not there yet. Bad things can and will happen to those who trust in the Lord.


  • God has His reasons/has a plan~While this is true, how does telling someone this help them get through their current problems? Isn't it sometimes a bit of a cop out? By saying this we don't have to physically do anything to alleviate or help them with their situation because hey, God has His reasons. Maybe it would be better to ask is there something I can do that will help you? If they say yes, be prepared to try to help. I think most of the time the answer will be no, but it tells them you are not dismissing their current situation and that you really do care. Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations, but why assume this is the case?


  • I'll pray for you~please only say this if you're really going to do so. I might add that it would be good to ask God to help you think of ways to help the other person. Not just wait for the circumstances in their life to magically change. Ask God to help you think of things you can actually do to help the other person through their struggles.

While many of these things may be true, it often does little to reassure or help the other person. It usually just makes them feel as though their worries and fears are unimportant or silly or that if they weren't so sinful they wouldn't be having these struggles. How does that help them get out of that state? It doesn't! Please don't be dismissive of the struggles of others. Tell them you want to help but you don't know how. Ask them how can I help you? They may not know them self, but at least they won't feel as though you've dismissed their concerns and struggles. Yes, I know we all have problems, but I have found one of the best ways to forget about my own is to work on helping someone else solve theirs.

Note: don't assume that someone is trying to be dismissive, they may just struggle to know how to indicate that they care.
I fall into this category more often than I would like to admit. The fact that another at least attempted to help should be noted.
 

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I like what you are saying. We need to know that we are sinners, and trying to do better can be a good thing, but we do not need to JUDGE each other for our sin.

The most helpful thing someone had done for me is to help me work through my internal struggles and it ended up bringing me closer to being able to understand where I was lacking in faith and to healing my issues themselves. Compare that to trying to always do the perfect thing and hoping that somehow actually helps heal our deeper issues, or actually makes us have more faith. It doesn't. The most justified man, if you remember, was the one who came before God and said, "I'm a sinner. I'm unworthy". Not the ones who were outwardly fulfilling the law, but were neglecting their hearts.
 

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MOTM June 2015
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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
The most justified man, if you remember, was the one who came before God and said, "I'm a sinner. I'm unworthy". Not the ones who were outwardly fulfilling the law, but were neglecting their hearts
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Very true.

The last lesson I heard at worship service contrasted the pride of the rich young ruler against the humility of the loathed tax collector, Zacchaeus.



 
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