“One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another person’s pain without trying to ‘fix’ it, to simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person’s mystery and misery. Standing there, we feel useless and powerless, which is exactly how a depressed person feels–and our unconscious need as Job’s comforters is to reassure ourselves that we are not like the sad soul before us. In an effort to avoid those feelings, I give advice, which sets me, not you, free.” Parker Palmer
“When we hold space for one another, we are fully present to the other’s pain–to their mystery and misery. We are not trying to rush in to fill the circle of discomfort a friend or acquaintance feels, but instead we are fully present in the moment and in the sharing. We are witnesses to human experience. Holding space goes so much farther than offering words of advice. Our silence is the act of holding someone up, without words. Silence in this context is beautiful and non-judgmental, and it goes so much farther in offering comfort than our words could ever hope to offer. Holding space is such a hard practice at first, because it is in our nature to want to rush into the center of the hurt and to do something about it. What if we didn’t rush so much? What if we listened and sat and held our friends close with our hearts? How would this revolutionize our relationships? I have a suspicion that we would be more apt to listen and to be fully present in the moment–and this may make all the difference in the world!” Heidi Hewett
When Job’s three friends … heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:11-13
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Have you ever experienced “holding someone up without words”, not trying to “fill the circle of discomfort” with your opinions and advice?
- We’re usually very hard on Job’s friends, often forgetting that they started by sitting in silence with Job for “seven days and seven nights!” Have you ever done anything like that? had anyone do it for you?
- Have you regretted later the words of comfort you offered someone? What could you have done differently?
Abba, when I’m feeling useless and powerless to help another, when unconsciously I want to separate myself from my suffering friend with fear-based words, help me to choose silence, abiding in the sacred space of our mutual powerlessness, enduring discomfort, looking to you, powerfully offering love.
For More: Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer
Thanks for reading! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)