Being Present to Those in Other Seasons
Posted by JILL SIMONS
To continue on with our conversation from last Tuesday, today I want to talk about how you can be present to others that are in a different season of life than you without giving into either:
- jealousy for those who appear to be in less challenging seasons than you
- or inaction when it comes to those who seem to be going through a more challenging season than you
First of all, I want to be clear: we never actually know what a season is like for somebody because we are not going through it ourselves.
Grace is in this moment, and God gives us what we need, but typically only when we need it.
It’s that pesky “manna” principle I so begrudgingly embrace - we don’t get to stockpile for the future, we have to receive in the moment.
That said, here are three simple tips for being there for other people, even if they are facing something outside your experience:
- Ask questions. Not an obnoxious amount of questions, but questions. Seek to hear them and how they are feeling about what they are going through. Resist the urge to editorialize and tell them what you imagine when you put yourself mentally in their shoes. They may be feeling totally different than you imagine you might feel when you imagine yourself in the same circumstances.
- Be specific about how you can help, celebrate, or be present. You can be there for people and honor your own boundaries at the same time. Don’t feel compelled to make big promises or sweeping statement, but be clear and kind about when you can be available to talk, what you can offer specifically as help ie.:
Pretty much whatever you do, avoid the “Let me know if you need anything” kiss of death.
This mostly applies to hard or challenging situations, not so much positive ones, but offering “anything” help is actually not helpful for a few reasons. First of all, it is incredibly hard for most people to accept help, and so it’s almost a knee jerk reaction to respond to that by saying “I really don’t need anything.” or “I’m okay, but thank you.”
Another reason is that even if the person does want or need help you are putting the work of coming up with what that should be on them. Perhaps what they need might feel like an imposition to ask of you and so they may simply keep quiet, not knowing if it’s something you are open to doing or not.
And finally, some situations might be so overwhelming that the person might not even have the mental bandwidth to think of what they could need. This was my experience after my miscarriage. I felt like I was run over by a train. The people that said “Let me know if you need anything” never heard from me again (during that season), but the people who offered specifically to take my other kids, bring us meals, and come pray with us were greeted with humble acceptance and gratitude.
- Pray for the correct disposition towards the situation. Bring in the Holy Spirit. He would be more than happy to help you, most especially when you feel totally out of your depth in meeting someone where they are. Whether you are naturally pulled towards jealousy or overwhelm, God is happy to flourish in your weakness. Prayer will draw His ear near and also remind you that you don’t have to go it alone.
What are your go-to tips for meeting others in whatever season of life they find themselves in
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