One of the most difficult things to do when attempting to help people is when they are going through something that you have never gone through. You want to encourage them, come along side of them so they are not alone and just out right help them in some way. But, due to the fact that they are walking a path you have never walked before you feel inadequate to be there for them. This is where The Leaf Rake Theory can help you.
Over the past few months on of my friends has been walking a tough road, his father is in the hospital and cancer is trying its hardest to take him from this life. I have not had to walk this road yet, I know that some day I may but thinking about it is so different then walking it for real, when it is always ripping at your heart and mind. I had to wrestle through how I could help him. I came to two conclusions.
First. I need to be his friend.
No matter what comes into someones life, they can always use a friend by their side. Sometimes that is for rejoicing and at other times, like this, it is for pain. As a friend there is an aspect of just being present that can go further then we understand unless we have walked that path. I want to be a friend. I care about him and his family. I feel for them and wish I could in a moment eliminate the pain, but we all know that I can not. This brought me to wanting to be compassionate and empathize with his pain even if I have not walked this path myself.
Second. Remember the trauma in my own life.
This is where the Leaf Rake Theory plays out. I have not been down that particular road but I have had pain and sorrow in my life. I was taught by my father that to understand others pain you need only understand pain. This will enable you to understand compassion. So here is how it plays out…
The shaft of the rake = pain. No matter what you have gone through there is a pain that act as a rod that runs through your heart. You feel this level of pain anytime big trauma happens in you life. Numerous circumstances could cause this, when a close relative or friend dies, get paralyzed, war and everything that comes with it, a life changing disease or accident. The list can keep going. The pain that you feel from any one of these situations can feel like that shaft going through your heart.
The fingers of the rake = the different situations that cause pain. Each of the different scenarios that we mentioned plus many more. The level of pain varies between them for sure. The girl who loses her husband will have much more pain then the girl who breaks up with her boyfriend. I am not equating the depth of sorrow but the common denominator of pain. Understanding pain at one level gives you the ability to show compassion because you understand the pain that is caused when that rod of trauma is shoved through your heart and then removed. The diameter of the whole matters for sure but the base line is consistent.
How does this impact me?
Good question. In 2 ways.
- Look around you and find those who are going through painful situations. I am sure there is someone you know who is in a similar spot. When you think of the person find a way to show compassion to the so they know you care.
- When it happens to you or someone close to you do not be so quick to think that no one else understands the whole that pain leaves in your heart feels the same. The depth of your sorrow may vary from others but they really do care. Do not write them off so quickly.
When someone I know is going through something extremely painful how can I really show compassion?
Another good question. I have listed a few things that I have learned through this that seem to have greatly encouraged my friend and his family.
- Let them know you will be praying for them. And really do it.
- Encourage the other people involved even if you do not know them, this will encourage your friend dramatically.
- Be willing to listen.
- For each time you spend with them in sorrow spend time with them in laughter.
- Continue to ask them about the other areas of their life. As much as this may feel all-consuming there are other things that are concerns in their life.
- Be willing to explain how you have felt pain. Do not try to equate them or diminish what they are going through, just show them you care and know it hurts. Even if you have no idea how bad.
- If you know of anyone else that has gone through the same things, that is has traveled the same path, then offer their contact information so that the two of them might talk.
- CARE. Sincerely CARE.
If you hope to influence people you must be willing to meet them where they are. Make no mistake about it, sometimes that it in the depths of despair.