PODCAST: Friendships and Powerful Connecting.
[What kind of friendships do we need when we're hurting?]
[Podcast text below]
What we try to offer doesn't often work.
When our friend, spouse or child is hurting, is it enough to offer a listening ear? To mirror our hurting friend's feelings through an empathetic, "I can't imagine how you must be feeling, but I'm with you in this?" No. Our experience tells us that as encouraging as those responses can be, it's often not enough to actually heal us. Frankly, as a "high-sensitive," empathy-driven person, I want empathy to be enough; but I have to admit it often isn't.
Should we assume a stubborn will is at the root of our friend's struggles, suggesting she more diligently apply certain biblical principles to her situation, holding her accountable? Again, experience tells us our efforts to exhort a hurting person often do more damage than good.
A better way to relate
Larry Crabb suggests that rather than a moralist model ["Do the right thing"] that assumes a stubborn will is at the root of a person's problems [and can be solved through pressure and accountability]; or a therapeutic model ["Fix what's wrong"] that assumes that psycholocial damage is at the root of a person's struggles [and can be solved through probing, insight and building self-awareness], Larry Crabb offers a third alternative: powerful connecting. When we powerfully connect with another, the actual Spirit of Christ is poured out of me into you, offering what's most alive [and God-given] in me for your greatest need.
Note: There is a limited place for both exhortation and insight, but not at the center of our efforts to heal people. Only powerful connecting can bring the healing friendships we long for.
When you see me struggling, I fear that...
When you see me struggling [says Crabb], realize that my worst fear is that I'm nothing more than a struggler, that nobody can see anything deeper in me than my sin and pain because that's all there is, that my only hope is to sin less and to somehow feel better. Don't put yourself under the pressure to figure out what I should do. That will confirm that my only hope is to do more right things [moralistic model]. I've tried that. It doesn't work.
Don't play amateur therapist or quickly send me to a real one [therapeutic model]. You'll just intensify my search to find out what's wrong with me, and I'll likely become more self-preoccupied and Spirit quenching than ever. And don't merely be nice and promise to pray for me. You can do more than hug me and go through the motions...
When you see me filled with doubt and self-hatred, when you observe me during my worst seasons of discouragement and failure, I want you to be filled with both anguish [weep with me as I weep] and hope, not the empty hope that says trite things like "It'll all work out" or "Just hang in there -- I'm sure you'll feel better soon," but a hope that exists because it sees something in me that is absolutely terrific. Believe that there is life in me. I want to catch the gleam in your eye that tells me you know there is more to me than my problems and that you're confidently hopeful that the good will emerge.
~ from Connecting, by Larry Crabb
What I want from a friendship
Here's what I want from my friendships, and from myself as I hope to offer powerful connecting: Believe that there is a Christ-given vein of gold, a God-bestowed noble heart beneath my mess, patiently believing that the good in me will always be more powerful than any bad no matter how it's masked or buried. Then ask God, "Pour into my hurting friend what is most alive in me into him; giving both me and my friend the hope that powerful healing can and will be released as I follow Your lead."
Point: Powerful connecting occurs when Christ pours what is most alive in my new heart into you, in a way that heals rather than merely offering empathy, pressure, advice or insight.