Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it. ~ Henri Nouwen
This is going to be a rather odd little post. I’m writing for your help. This is the time of year when both joys and sorrows are magnified by the expectations of the season. For those who are grieving, over and over you hear I’m sorry for your loss.
I don’t like that sentence. This is likely just my own personal quirk since I’ve never heard anyone else object to it. I don’t know exactly why I don’t like it. I guess it seems like such a platitude to me. It doesn’t feel like going with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. It feels more like fleeing from another’s suffering or applying the obligatory quick cure.
It’s what every one says on TV when delivering news that a loved one has died. Actually, it’s what everyone, in real life, says whenever someone else is sad. I’ve heard it applied to the death of a spouse, a child, a parent, a marriage, a pet, a career, a dream, to bankruptcy, to theft and to competition. It’s on Hallmark cards, Law and Order and the lips of our neighbors.
However well-meaning, I don’t like it, but I don’t know quite how to replace it. It’s a different message than I’m praying for you. It doesn’t have the same intent as I’m thinking about you.
I know sometimes there aren’t words, but when we’re separated by physical distance, sometimes words are all we have.
So, I’m wondering, what words do you use? Me, I generally just end up saying I’m so very sorry. But I’d love to learn from you – all of you. What has comforted you. What have you said to offer comfort?
It is, after all, that time of year when compassion may be the greatest gift we give.