Yesterday, we looked at listening and how important it is that we listen compassionately to those who are hurting. I want to stay on the topic another day because I believe it is so important. Imagine the despair in Job’s voice as he says, “My spirit is crushed, and my life is nearly snuffed out. The grave is ready to receive me.” (Job 17:1) Job is lamenting and venting the deep agony in his soul. His friend, Bildad decides the best way to “encourage” Job’s spirit is to scold him! You have to wonder, what was he thinking? Bildad scolds, “Speak sense if you want us to answer!” (Job 18:2) Now I don’t know about you but I really hate to be scolded. When I’m venting, the last thing I need is for someone to “scold” me or correct my feelings. But, as I reflect on my life as a wife, mother and friend I am sorry to say sometimes when a loved one vented to me, I scolded. I have regrets in that area.
I think one of the biggest lessons we can learn from this passage in Job, is to sit quietly when someone is venting and simply allow them to finish. We might want to validate their feelings with a phrase like, “Wow, that sounds terrible. It makes sense that you would feel so discouraged.” Or, “It sounds like you are feeling so discouraged. Tell me more. What happened next?” In the realm of parenthood, I wonder how much more effective I might have been had I validated my kids feelings rather than correcting them. What I discovered along the journey is that when they were upset, if I scolded or corrected their feelings, they simply stopped talking to me. I learned it was far wiser to allow them to feel whatever they were feeling, and draw out those feelings, rather than correct or scold.
The lesson for each of us is this; when a person is in deep pain, that is not the time to scold or correct feelings. It’s the time to listen compassionately and validate where possible. Invite the hurting person to tell you more. Make the other person feel “felt.” Often all that is needed, is for that person to release the pent up sorrow.