Saturday, July 3, 2010

Why do we do this to each other?

Three events in the past week.  None directly involve me.  But all leave me sad.  All 'quotes' are paraphrased.
  1. A clearly exhausted mom complains that she didn't get any sleep last night because of the baby.  A mom of older kids says, "oh, enjoy this time while it lasts honey, you blink and they are all grown and gone."  
  2. A woman complains that she just hates when her mom treats her like she is still five.  First response?  "Oh, I just wish my mom was still around.  I wouldn't care how she treats me.  You ought to appreciate your mom while you still have her."
  3. A lady requests prayer for a friend who was robbed.  The first response there?  "It's just stuff, and stuff can be replaced.  You/she ought to be grateful that everyone is okay, not worried about mere things."
What do these three situations have in common?  In each case, a woman is frustrated or upset.  And in each case, an alleged friend steps in and makes her feel guilty for not always having a sunny disposition and seeing the silver lining.  And they sound so "Christian" and pious and all, but really, are they saying anything worth hearing?

Mom number 1 knows that her kids will only be little for a short time, although some days it sure seems never-ending.  When I made statements like that, I just wanted some acknowledgment that sometimes this being a mom of little ones is HARD, and going for days on end with little sleep is HARD.  I didn't need people telling me it was only going to get worse ("oh, you think this is bad, just wait until they're teens!") and I didn't need people pooh-poohing my stress and exhaustion. An understanding smile, a hug, agreement that everything seems so much worse when you haven't slept.  That would have been enough. 

And why can't woman number 2 be frustrated with her mom without being told "at least she isn't dead."  I mean really, WHY do people think that is necessary?  This lady doesn't regularly complain about her mom, so it isn't like she needs a solid dose of a different perspective.  I imagine the person making the statement thinks she is being helpful.  But really, it sounds like, "you think you have it bad, look at me!"  Again, an understanding smile, a hug, agreement that relationships can be frustrating sometimes.  That would have meant more to me in that situation.

And number three just makes me angry.  Nearly thirty years ago, my family lost a lot in a house fire.  Not everything, but nearly.  Nobody was hurt, something I'm certainly grateful for.  I can still see my baby brother's smoldering mattress being dragged out of the house.  That is an image forever seared into my brain.   I remember ONE person, a teacher, who seemed to have any clue as to what I was experiencing.  My friends and everyone from church?  Either they made ludicrous statements ("*I* would have gone to my closet and grabbed all my clothes and taken them with me") or they (the Christian ones) told me that I was wrong to be upset about mere things, stuff that can be replaced and doesn't truly matter.

I snapped twice.  Once to the fashion queen quoted above ("I was too busy grabbing my brother.") and once to one of the hundreds of "just stuff" people.  But mostly, I let them make me feel like I was a bad person for caring that I lost my brand new camera, or for losing my very first "grown up" silk blouse, or for losing the linens my great-grandma had made (and everything else in my "hopeless paper bag" aka my hope 'chest').

Why can't we just smile, hug, and acknowledge a tough moment?  Why do we have to make ourselves out as having it worse than anyone else?  Why do we have to lapse into smug, sanctimonious statements that don't help anyone?

I know I've done it too.  And if I've done it to you... I am truly sorry.  I'm going to try to work on that smile and that hug.  And try to resist the urge to minimize your struggles while expounding on mine.


kristi said...

It is discouraging! We should be there for one another instead of being asses. One friend asked me for a recipe and I posted it on Facebook, and I mentioned I didn't add beans due to the carbs and she told me that beans are better than the corn I added..ugh. I didn't ask her advice on it, I had already done my just irritated me that I did something nice and still got her negative response.

Twisted Cinderella said...

That is just too true.

Erika said...

You are so right. Sometimes it is best to say nothing at all - just be there and be supportive and listen.

Merit Kirkpatrick said...

A great reminder of what we need to do "encourage one another and build each other up" - thanks for helping me to think before I post that "pithy" little phrase! God Bless- Merit

Samantha said...

Hello! This is the first time I'm visited your blog - I tracked you down after you wrote the encouraging comment on my blog about teaching Biology!

Wow, you got me with the first article here. I'm following you now.

I SO agree with your sentiments. I see this sort of behavior all of the time among well-meaning folks. Your words were also convicting as well. Just last night my teenage daughter was complaining about her brother bothering her when her friend was over. Rather than just affirm her feelings and move one, I made her feel guilty for having such feelings. What a great reminder to be kind and understanding.


Deb said...


I agree 110% !!! Well written!