How To Be There For Someone Going Through A Rough Time

How To Be There For Someone GoingAt one point or the other, someone you care about is going to be in pain or discomfort. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, financially…it’s inevitable. It’s bound to happen and yet, many of us are totally ill equipped to be there for people who need us the most in the way that matters the most.

This is no small problem. It’s the reason why relationships of all kinds end. Businesses lose customers, churches lose members, people break up, marriages end, people get fired, people quit jobs, and siblings fight. Pain Management.  In fact, this is a MAJOR issue in the body of Christ. Managing the pain people are going through.

This inability to handle the pain of others is like a landmine waiting to be stepped on. You can play in the fields of a great relationship until that moment when the other party is in pain or discomfort, and BOOM… your foot goes on that landmine and you don’t know what to do …how to be there for them.

This could make or break the relationship…or worse still, the person.

Now I understand that most of the time, pain needs to be dealt with by professionals and people who are trained to manage the pain. HOWEVER, most of the time ( just like in physical pain situations) before the professionals get there, the closest people are usually the “first aid responders and by standers…people who are close by” and if you know anything about first aid, you know that how those first moments are handled make a huge difference in saving the life.

Same thing here. YOU…YOU are the spiritual, mental, emotional, financial, physical, social first aid responder for the people in your life.

Before I take this further, it’s important to define “Rough Time” in this context: Even though this applies to physical pain as well, we already do a decent job at managing that. This article is leaning more towards emotional hurt, emotional discomfort, rock bottoms, offence, mental discomfort, spiritual rock bottoms and so on. …issues of the heart and mind.

HOW do you manage the pain of those you love? Here are some critical tips for doing that in a way that will preserve the person and also your relationship with them:

1) NEVER EVER dismiss the pain:

This is probably one of the worst ways of managing a person’s heart felt pain, hurt or discomfort. Acting in a dismissive way like laughing it off, mocking it, being sarcastic about it, is not the way to go about it.

Men go through the worst of this because men are raised to not show emotions, to suck up the pain, to not be emotional, to not need anyone, to “be a man”, to never be sad, to not cry, to not ask for help and so on.

When a man expresses pain… discomfort or vulnerability to you, that’s huge. That means he trusts you. Dismiss his pain and you will sweat to earn that trust back.

Because it’s almost impossible for

2) NEVER EVER start by trivializing the pain:

In other words, don’t start off trying tell the person who is in pain, that they are overreacting. If someone is upset about something you did that offended them, don’t react by making them feel that they are “making this bigger than it really is” WHY? Because you are not the one to determine how bad this is. If it hurts them….IT HURTS THEM.

Validate their pain first …THEN you can help them see how trivial it is. (Let me just say that this is not easy to do especially when they accuse you of being the cause of that pain…but don’t worry. Hold back the reaction a bit, and you’ll have plenty time later to shrink the perceived size of the pain)

Your friend is crying over the break up with a lousy Ex that needed to go, don’t tell your friend to stop making a fuss.

You are not the one feeling the pain so you don’t have a right to determine how much pain someone else should be allowed to feel. When we trivialize pain, we force people into a shell. We close off the lines of communication. We prevent people from being vulnerable with us. We make them adopt self-reliance in an attempt to prevent ridicule from the very person they need to be vulnerable to (YOU). And then, one day…we find them figuratively or actually lying face down. They check out of our church, out of our lives, out of our retail store and possibly out of life entirely.

3) NEVER EVER Over spiritualize their pain:

In psychology, there is something called the “Hot-Cold Empathy Gap”. Basically, it’s a psychological bias when a person in a current state, can’t imagine not being in that state. Or when someone who is not in a particular state, can’t imagine or relate at all with someone else who is in that state.

You’re in love and someone says love is overrated and you just feel like unfriending them? Empathy Gap at work.

You’re standing there wondering why a smoker cant “just” will themselves to quit? Empathy Gap at work.

Even the nicest person can have Empathy Gap. Now even though it is not really a measure of character, it does put us in a position where we are not able to effectively be there for people who need us, simply because we can’t even imagine that their pain is possible or we underestimate their struggle

A church member says they struggle with depression and you think “That’s not possible…in this midst of all this worship at church??? Naaahhh you’re probably in sin”

In fact….there is a VEEERRRYYY thin line between over-spiritualizing and trivializing a person’s pain.

I’m not saying that great issues people face can’t be prayed away in a few minutes of faith filled prayer and I am not saying that many of our problems aren’t actually spiritual problems. What I am saying is that:

Many times, we use our spirituality to

We use our spirituality to hide the fact that we are unsure of how to help and feel too awkward to admit that or ask how.

What I am saying is that:



How do Christians become drug addicts? How do well intentioned husbands turn into wife beaters? How do good wives turn into secret cheaters? How do pastors get into depression? How do church ministers turn into drug addicts? How does the worship leader suffer from insecurity? How do mothers turn to prostitution? How do these things happen? BECAUSE BEFORE THEY ARE THOSE THINGS (Pastors, ministers, husbands, wives, mothers) THEY ARE FIRST PEOPLE….AND PEOPLE’S LIVES CAN BE MESSY.

So next time you hear that someone is dealing with something…not happy about something, doing something wrong…yes…pray for them…but don’t trivialize through over spiritualization.


4) NEVER EVER respond with what YOU would do:

OMG if that happened to me, I would flip out.

If she did that to me, I would/ Well, if I were you, I would just…/

Well, it didn’t happen to you, she didn’t do it to you, you’re not the victim and you don’t have the right to offer that opinion.

It’s not that your opinion doesn’t matter. It’s just that BEFORE you start giving your own opinions, seek to understand first.

A good comment or question would be one that helps them think and make good decisions on their own:

“So based on all the information you have and everything that has happened, what do you think you should that will help you_________?”

5) DO Listen – To understand not to judge:

Listening is critical for dealing with people in pain. Again, remember that this not just physical pain…but when people are in any type of struggle or discomfort.

When someone expresses emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, social pain or discomfort, one of the first things you must do is convey “I AM LISTENING AND I DESIRE TO UNDERSTAND”.

I am talking about the type of listening that makes someone feel that you are listening and giving them a chance to get the weight off their emotional, mental or spiritual shoulders. I am talking about the type of listening that is done by ASKING THE RIGHT (EMPATHETIC) QUESTIONS not the WRONG (JUDGEMENTAL) QUESTIONS. I am talking about the type of listening that says “YOU ARE ALLOWED TO GET IT ALL OUT AND ARTICULATE HOW YOU FEEL”

6) DO Ask: How can I help?

We often miss this critical question when we are dealing with someone in pain or discomfort. We do all the listening…the praying, and we forget to ask “How can we help?.

Now ..I know this is a scary part…because we don’t know what they will ask and that is a valid concern if we don’t have unlimited resources to meet their potential need ,and people in pain (for understandable reasons) can also be selfish in the pursuit of their relief form the source of pain…so your concern is valid. But remember….pain is a beast. A person on fire doesn’t care about yelling too loud or stealing your water. When a person is in pain is really not the right time to be a judge of character.

If you would rather not directly give the blank check of “how can I help”, at least give what you have. The occasional visit….the random encouragement, randomly swinging by to help wash the dishes and walk the dogs…whatever you can do at the time you can do it. At least that way, they know that you give what you are able.

7) DO follow up:

We often believe that we should never bring up the pain the other person told us they are going through. We assume that “bringing it up” will be a reminder for them and so we would do them harm by bringing it up.

As well-intentioned as that is, it works the opposite. If they told us about their pain, they are ok with us bringing it up and checking in on them with love. They NEED that outlet. They need an excuse for them to hear their own voices work through the problems.

This tells them you weren’t freaked out by what they told you, and that they still have you in their corner. They tell you they are battling depression and you haven’t called for two weeks? Wow… you called MORE to hang out when they didn’t need you and now you don’t call as often because you are spooked? No.

They told you they are living in sin and trying to come out, and you go AWOL? …Na.

They tell you they are struggling with a disease or health issue and you don’t bring it up for a month? Don’t do that. If you run away …even for a bit, it says you can’t deal with the struggle they’re going through. Even if the truth is that you yourself are in pain FOR them and are having crying fits FOR them, it comes across the wrong when when you disappear or dont bring it up.

So follow up. Even if you were the one that caused the pain and have worked to be better, follow up to get feedback on “how things are now”

The long and short of this is to never use your own “pain threshold” to measure the validity of someone else’s pain. The fact that you have tougher spiritual, emotional or mental skin, doesn’t mean the pain or hurt felt by the other person is any less. Even if someone is over reacting, validate them first and then help them realize that they can take more than…. can survive more than… can do better than… scream a little less than they are doing right now.

The HUMAN condition of people around you is made better or worse…by YOU. Tobi Atte

I bet you there is someone out there in your life/circle that may benefit from this….so be nice and share!