Tumbling in the Sand
Yesterday at church, parishioners shared with me their favorite cures to sinus infections and colds (yes, I’m sick … still). They asked a whole lot of “Have you tried …?” and offered all sorts of help. I felt a bit overwhelmed. I’m not used to being taken care of like that. My family has always been the type that when you were sick you went off by yourself and everyone left you alone until you felt better (and yes, we like it that way).
It dawned on me, though, that this advice-giving was a way of saying, “I care.”
My family showed each other that we cared by leaving each other alone (a bunch of introverts we are). The people in my congregation showed me that they cared by trying to help me feel better. As a pastor, I show people I care by listening, by being present, by challenging them, by telling them about God … among other ways, too, I hope.
It makes me think of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” You know, that lyric that goes, “I see friends shaking hands, sayin’ ‘how do you do?’ They’re really saying ‘I love you.'”
It dawns on me there’s a lot of ways to say “I love you” and “I care.” And it also dawns on me that people use the best language they know in order to say it. Whether that be a hug, kiss, advice or a casserole dish. And it’s beautiful—even when it’s a bit overwhelming.
When I was in Pastoral Care classes they taught us that it’s horrible to give advice because you are generally 1) giving in to your own discomfort and looking to “fix-it”, 2) dis-empowering the person you’re giving advice to because you’re assuming they haven’t thought of that yet, and 3) not listening.
Generally, this is true. Giving advice hasn’t generally worked well for me in Pastoral Care or just being a good friend when, despite this wisdom that I’ve learned along the way, I slip into advice giving. So, I try to take it to heart when listening to others … giving advice isn’t so helpful.
But I realize that I shouldn’t take advice the way I’ve been taught to think about giving it. It really is a language of love. It really speaks of the heart.
So, for that, I’m ever grateful. And overcome.