Love deals gingerly and helpfully with a wounded heart

by Craig on July 29, 2011


So I need your help. I need you to tell me if this is the way to approach a friend who is being bombarded by a whole gaggle of negative voices, and maybe their heart is running wild through the streets of “woe is me-ville”.

Please tell me I’m on target, or offer a better way. I’m asking you guys because I know by now how wise you are – and you have wisdom beyond bookish wisdom – you have real life wisdom – and wisdom with heart.

I need to know this because a “woe is me-ish” horse handler cannot even begin the process of breaking a wild horse (a.k.a. negative voice.)

If you’re new, or haven’t been here for a while, this is a continuing series…the Love War against the negative voices…which is now entering the home stretch.

The “Love War” has a whole category of its own…
over on the sidebar…
and down a little…
in the “Lots of Love” section – third category in the line.

It kinda got rolling with this post.

So here’s what I’m thinking.

I sit my friend down and focus some calm empathy and sympathy – like a laser.

But being a man my first impulse wouldn’t be to really listen and empathize – it would be to solve.

Not the right move.

One thing I have learned in this year I’ve named “connect” is to more fully enter into the feelings of others. My heart has sprouted new branches by connecting. And reading so many of you has been like adding leaves to the branches and deeper roots to my trunk.

I’m thinking that when pains, fears, or negative voices are coming so fast and furious that they’re like a billion grains of sand hitting a palm tree in the Sahara during a furious sandstorm…

I need to take time to feel before I speak.


Oh, and I’ve learned that there are two words I should never say to a person is in this state of panic. Never – ever – the condescending, “Calm down” – that never ends well. Am I right?


after their words have begun to outnumber the sniffles, maybe few questions to understand more – and help them understand more?

How did it make you feel when…?
Is there anything that can be done to fix this?
How were you feeling before…?

I’m thinking that the answers might be one sentence, or one word, or just a nod or a whimper. Whatever the case I’d need not to interrupt, and just help the person to think rationally at a time when irrationality wants to take center stage and sing an aria.

Then there comes a time when calm starts to rise…


like the sun in the early hours of morning.

I’d need to be sensitive for this moment.

Now maybe a little rationality and logic? Because eventually it needs to be applied, right?

Is this the way? Because the bottom line is that we (read I) need to apply calm and neutral logic with love to each negative voice – and ask and answer these questions about each one:

Where did you come from?
What do you make me feel like doing?
What is the kernel of truth in you?

And a new question:

what is the loving, true, and powerful voice with which to replace you.

And voila – the broken horse, ready to be ridden and trained further.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Cora July 29, 2011 at 8:58 am

If you said, “Calm Down” to me in the midst of my explosion of all that was wrong, I would probably have a second explosion and tell you, “CALM DOWN?????? If I could do that, then my problems would be over, right????? That’s what I’ve been trying to do all my life CALM.DOWN, you stupid idiot!!!!!” And an awkward, irritating silence would come over the room.

If I can think of one response that HAS calmed me down, it was when I did melt into a discouraged, giving-up heap, and the person just said softly, “WOW!!!” and sat in silence with me for a while until I emptied the well. Oh, and don’t forget to have a big, full box of tissues available. Nothing more awkward than digging in your purse with a runny nose and tears all over the place.

Craig, your questions you mentioned are good ones. But it would help if YOU did a little talking before asking your snibbling idiot in front of you to try to talk, especially if it’s a woman. We don’t stuff tears very easily once they have escaped the pressure cooker. To put me at ease again and able to talk, perhaps a little of YOUR connection and YOUR story, and how you got through the similar situation. Let me know you’ve been there, that you understand, that you almost gave up, that you were afraid, etc., etc. Not only does it put you on common ground with me, but lets me know that your answers won’t be “canned”, or the usual, “buck up and get over it — you’re a grown up now and know better” type of answer. Remember, MY horses are all right there, snorting, scuffing the dirt, and ready for a good attack on ME and YOU!!!!

I’m so happy you asked the last question! It came to me last night as if audibly spoken, loud and clear to my heart:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love, and underneath are the everlasting arms!”


Craig July 29, 2011 at 10:40 am

Hmmmm, making statements, sharing first, then asking questions – this is a good thing – because this I’m good at. And sharing how I overcame, or someone else overcame the same situation – I can see how that would be a good thing. Thank you! Common ground, no canned answers, no condescension – all excellent – yay!

Oh, and by the way, your horses probably can’t do that much damage to me – those horses that we share in common – well those can – but many of my horses would do you no harm – and many of yours would prance right by me like I didn’t exist – just sayin.

and that last question – that’s a step toward breaking the horse – so we don’t destroy the horse – we just teach it to be used – I’m thinking that’s a good step!

Thank you Cora, you gave me really good stuff, and I’m thankful for that – God bless and keep you Cora.


Kristi July 29, 2011 at 10:27 am

Craig… Beautiful post…so thoughtful, sensitive, and wise. I wish I had the time to answer some of your questions and/or offer you some feedback. I was just dropping in to thank you for your kind “welcome back” to me last week. Actually, have to log off since real life is calling to me. So although I can’t give you a proper response to this post I can offer you this.
Your compassion and your desire to always do what is kind is so pleasing to God. So many of us can rush through our days with the “Me-Me-Me Syndrome”! Forgetting so easily it is about “God-God- God” and “Love-Love-Love”! You seem to have that lesson learned. I always leave your blog feeling inspired to keep walking with Him. Thank you for that.
It’s good to be back visiting you. :)


Craig July 29, 2011 at 10:43 am

Kristi, it’s awfully good to have you back – you were missed! And thank you, thank you for your gracious words – I’m learning to get better at this – and knowing it’s about God, and love, that helps – but blogging in this community has helped a lot too. So really, thank you for your nice words, and I am uber happy to “see” you again. God bless and keep.


Katie July 30, 2011 at 6:33 pm

For me listening…. has been key to helping others and reflecting back what I hear them saying. When this has been done for me then I have been able to hear what I am saying and realize it is a negative voices.

Sometimes the questions throw me for a loop and set me off…. other times they really get me examining and exploring what is inside.

Realizing God’s truth and meeting with God is the only TRUTH that has changed the negative voices.


Craig July 31, 2011 at 6:41 am

Katie, I really heart the reflecting back part – I know this technique – at least I know in my head. To be able to reflect back to a person what they’re thinking is a good way to help them sort things out. Important tip! Thank you. And to be ready for a response that is “set off” – and love enough to stay with it until some peace arrives – that’s love too. Thank you for that also! And Amen, and Amen – in the end God’s power is better than any technique – God’s love is the best answer to any question. Thank you – these were golden nuggets Katie! God bless and keep you.


Michelle July 31, 2011 at 5:45 am

I have found that the times that God uses me most with someone in their circumstances is when I am most empty. That is, I have prayed “God I have nothing, you have to do this.” These are also the times when God gives me His wisdom, He leads my speech (talk, questions), and I spend more time listening. (If I think back, it feels like I play devil’s advocate at times – asking or saying something to make the other person have to think about what is happening and see it as it really is. But if that is the case, it is all God.)

Having said that. I agree with Cora. Completely. Be prepared to share yourself and your story. Be prepared to listen. Really listen, not just hear words and think of the solution. Sometimes a solution or answer isn’t what is needed. Sometimes the person just needs to have a sounding board to hear back what they are saying or thinking so that they can hear clearly. And thus recognise what is going on. And then they need, or may already have, the tools to continue.

Oh, and prayer. Prayer is big going in. Even if it is just as I pray. “Lord, I have nothing. You need to do this.”


Craig July 31, 2011 at 6:49 am

to play a loving “devil’s advocate” – and to understand that Our Lord Has so many more “talents” at getting to deeper truths and applying love – and then being a conduit of his love – that IS a better way to go about this. I heart that – that’s wisdom! Thank you Michelle. And I do like the sharing of stories where the “voice” or situation has been overcome – I can see how that can be uplifting – but it has to be said in such a way that doesn’t apply more pressure too – at least that’s what I’m thinking.

By the way – “sounding board” is the second term that really perked up my ears here – “devil’s advocate” being the first one – I looked them up and they really add extra stuff. Thank you for them, and thank you for “prayer” – that invites our Lord and and reminds us (read me) to get out of the way. Really awesome stuff! Thank you Michelle – and God bless you.


Ruthiey July 31, 2011 at 7:33 pm

First off, thank you so much for your comment on my blog, Craig! I have just been wrestling with trying to be vulnerable and you gave me hope that I’m heading in the right direction. I’m so glad God is blessing your ‘connect’ year!

Second, I always enjoy coming to your blog. You always have something insightful to say and you are dealing with something so incredibly important here! I have struggled with negative voices and calling them wild horses is so appropriate. One of the ways I began on my journey of listening to truth and applying it to my life was a bible study. I think there has to be a lot said for non-direct confrontation of people’s ‘wild horses’. Often, when someone tells a woe-is-me person what they’re thinking is wrong, even gently, they feel personally attacked. And they’re usually fighting to maintain some semblance of identity amidst all the voices and you seem like someone trying to tear them down further and therefore as someone they need to reject.

I realize that there is a time for challenging lies and I can’t say I know exactly when… I feel like I kinda failed one of my friends recently because she was sharing woes and vulnerable things and I think I answered too quick. I’m praying that God will teach me to listen… but Im a work in progress.

I think one important thing has to happen and that is desperation. They need to be desperately at the end of themselves and frantic to find the answer. Sometimes you can be that person to help point out they can’t figure out stuff on their own. And maybe you can be the person holding the lantern of hope when they stumble into desperation. God is the only one who can bring them to the end of themselves.

I don’t know if that helped any, but it was good for me to write some of this stuff out. I sometimes feel like the Church is so shallow. We get together and talk superficially about anything and everything and all go home, lonelier than ever and having our real needs unmet. But I have hope! Jesus Christ is Church’s Great Physician.

I’m interested to read more on this!


Craig August 1, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Ruthiey, thank you for the caution about letting the person know that their thinking is wrong – it might have to be done – but your words remind me that it better be done with tact, and delicacy, and empathy, and understanding.

And Ruthiey, trust me, as somebody way ahead of you on the timeline of life – we are always a work in progress. I heart that you know that already – we live – and if we learn – we grow.

And I’m with you 100% about church. Gathering together and talking superficially about stuff. We are all broken – and so church is just a bunch of broken people together – yet nobody wants to admit it. So I get what you said. So much wisdom in your words – it slays me sometimes! God bless and keep you Ruthiey.


Bethany Ann July 31, 2011 at 8:59 pm

sounds good to me, craig. but since these things never follow the “right” pattern (mine don’t, anyway), go without expectations. make sure you’re soaked all over in Scripture, and you’ll do just fine. wait… “be” just fine. don’t “do”. “be”.


Craig August 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm

beautiful advice Bethany Ann, expect things not to go as expected, be soaked in Scripture, and don’t “do” – “be” – all of that is so good – I am so happy I get a chance to learn after I get done writing – and I have such wise people who read – and share their wisdom with me. Thank you Bethany Ann, thank you, and God bless and keep you.


Debra July 31, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Craig, it sounds like you know how to counsel someone in ‘woe-is-me-ville.’ The questions you ask this person are good. “How did it make you feel when…?” But instead of saying, “Is there anything that can be done to fix this?” You might say, “What can be done to fix this?” Because for every fear and worry there is a solution. And calm empathy always works. I love the way you take time to feel before you speak. Not many do. And that you know not to interrupt the flow of woes :)

Oh, and before I forget, someone left a comment on my blog tonight, saying that he had to write down his fearful thoughts on a sticky note and ask, “Is this thought truth?” And when I replied to his comment I left him one of your links on the negative voices.


Craig August 1, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Debra, I heart the way you made that subtle change in that question. It eases tension – and reduces pressure. Thank you for that. And thank you for thinking of me and linking to my negative voice extravaganza. “Is this thought truth?” – That’s kind of one of my follow-up questions to the voices. Debra, I heart that you read me, I heart reading you, thank you, and as always God bless you.


A. August 1, 2011 at 10:12 am

Craig, I like what you shared about listening first with empathy and sincerity. I agree with what Cora said about also sharing or being approximately equally invested in the level of vulnerability and sharing. I don’t think that sharing needs to necessarily come first. The person may simply need to be heard first. Listening I feel is such an art or skill or both. What, when and where things occur in conversations depends on each circumstance and set of persons. Sometimes people hear our pain and story only to quickly jump in with their own in which case I don’t feel heard. I just feel used. I feel like that person was only looking for the first opportunity to link to their story at the expense of my current woundedness. Timing is so critical in lisening.

Sometimes I have felt like I ‘overshared’. That is, I have spilled my guts only to get backing up of the other party. So I try to be very, very careful of how much I share and with whom. And I still make mistakes about that but I am learning. There is a very, very good book about listening that I love. It echoes much of what you have shared.

I also hate it when someone claims to be listening to me but they don’t maintain eye contact, they keep checking their phone for texts, emails, etc. or simply don’t put down their computer, etc.

This is very important, Craig. Thank you so much.


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