For the person who is in pain:
1. life will go on
As difficult as it may be in this moment, this moment will pass. People do survive the most excrutiating circumstances imaginable.
2. pain is bearable
It may feel unbearable; but feelings are only feelings. It is the stories I add to my feelings that are deadly. It is the fear of pain and the belief that pain can destroy me that are truly destructive. Pain itself is not the enemy.
3. this moment can always be endured
Everything changes. The pain may never completely come to an end. But, circumstances change. All life is constantly in flux. There are always points of light if I keep my eyes open.
4. resistance only increases suffering
The pain will ease when I stop fighting against the reality of what is. See #5.
5. many things cannot be fixed
I am powerless to change many things. The more I accept my powerlessness, the more I begin to open to the possibility that there is a power from beyond myself that will come to my assistance.
6. whatever comes I will deal with it when it gets here
Projecting into some imagined future, never helps the present. The best way to prepare for the future is to live as deeply, authentically, and openly as possible in the present.
7. I possess greater strength than I may imagine
This may not be my experience at the moment; but the truth of human nature is that we are strong beyond imagining. While there are people who have found the pain of their lives too difficult to bear, many others have survived unspeakable suffering.
For the person being with someone who is struggling:
1. I do not need to be afraid
The pain in another person’s life cannot destroy me. There is no perfect way to be with a person who is suffering, except to be open and honest.
2. I do not need to try to fix it
When people are suffering deeply, they do not need me to offer well-meaning solutions, plans, or strategies to change their situation. They do not need a fix-it machine.
3. the hurting person does not need answers or solutions
There are no answers to suffering. It just is. The person in pain is not having an intellectual crisis. They are experiencing a crisis of the heart. They do not need an academic formulation to answer their questions; they need an open heart to meet their suffering.
4. I seek to listen more than to tell
There really is nothing to tell a hurting person. What they need is to be supported in entering fully into their own experience. They need encouragement to accept their doubts, fears, anxieties, uncertainties as they are without judgment.
5. the hurting person wants to know I am with them no matter how dark it may seem
They want a companion. They want someone who will sit with them and be present to the pain they are experiencing.
In the Book of Job, when they heard of his tragedies and came to visit Job, his friends started out so well.
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. They sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. (Job 2:11-13)
But, after that they went astray. They turned Job’s suffering into an academic conundrum to be solved. For the next 35 chapters Job’s friends try to explain his pain. They try to justify his suffering. In the process they fill the air with empty words and fail to be present to either God or their friend.
6. I will not compare
The hurting person does not need to know that I have been through a similar circumstance, or that I know others in similar circumstances. The hurting person needs to be encouraged to acknowledge their own suffering and experience it fully and deeply.
7. I will trust
Strength is available. When I trust deeply the presence in my own heart, I will bring a higher, more peaceful, grounded energy. With this energy it begins to be possible to move through suffering with new light and hope. Pain has the capacity to break me open to new depths within. I am enriched by being with a person in pain, but can only make this journey when I have first allowed my own pain to do its work in my own life.