Her impish face was adorable. I so wanted to play this game she’d made up.
“Hold these,” she chirped, and handed me three pine cones. I don’t even know where she got pine cones in Houston, Texas. I hadn’t seen many pine trees.
Try as I might to hold them lightly, I could barely stand having them poke my tender palms. “I can’t hold these,” I finally said, as I set them down on the coffee table. “They hurt my hands.” That was an understatement.
My sister looked at me with puzzlement written on her face. “Does that really hurt?”
At least she’d asked. I’d grown up hearing, over and over, “That doesn’t hurt.” The denial of my physical pain by those who knew me best often made me wonder if I was crazy. Because it DID hurt. At least that’s what my brain was telling me.
A Lesson in Compassion
Last weekend, my husband and I were watching Hour of Power on TV. We really like Bobby Schuller’s preaching style. He clearly paid attention to his grandfather’s preaching years ago and has carried on the legacy well.
He was talking about what we, as Christians, should do about the racial issues plaguing our society. The bottom line was to love. But he said something that triggered the memory above. He said (and I paraphrase) that we who are not African American, or Hispanic, should not deny the experiences of those who are.
When we hear or read stories about what our black or brown brothers and sisters have experienced—whether it be bullying, racial profiling, being followed in the dime store as a teen, being taunted or called names because of the color of their skin, being pulled over and threatened by a cop for no good reason—we must not deny their experience.
They were there. We were not. We simply must stop telling them it didn’t hurt.Tweet
We must let the truth of what others experience into the light. That is where healing begins. Darkness fosters denial and is the enemy of truth.
So what do we do? When we hear stories that are appalling—but we can’t quite grasp what we’re hearing because it’s never happened to us—what do we say?
I know what I would like to hear when I express that something is physically painful to me. Instead of having someone deny my pain, I’d rather hear, “I’m sorry that is painful for you. Is there anything I can do to help?”
A simple acknowledgement that the hearer may not completely understand my pain, but they believe me when I say it hurts.
It’s not rocket science. It’s basic compassion.
So when we hear a story about what another has experienced because of the color of their skin, we can respond likewise. It’s as simple as saying, “I’m sorry you had to experience that. It sounds like that would have been emotionally painful. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Maybe there isn’t anything we can do, but showing a little compassion can go a long way.