Heavy words

Some people just aren’t very good at carrying things. Consider if you were going to move. Do you ask someone who weighs 87 pounds and is very frail to help you move your big-screen television and your sofa? Of course not. If they trying to carry that they will get very hurt. Your sofa or your television might get dropped as well. You’ll be sad or angry and your friend will be embarrassed and hurt.

Likewise, if you have emotional things that need to be carried it’s important to find the right person. Some people simply cannot handle other people’s feelings. This often means that they can’t handle their own either. Say you tell someone about something that is very difficult for you. There is something really heavy going on in your life, and you need to share it. If the person listens intently and compassionately, then they are a good person to carry this. If they can listen in a way that helps you and doesn’t harm them, then you are both OK. But if they get angry that you told them, or secretly complain that you confided in them, or even worse, they start to tell you about something worse that happened to them, then you know they can’t carry your problems.

The goal of compassionate listening is to carry with, not carry for. The listener isn’t taking away the problem – they are just making it easier for the speaker to carry their own problems. The best kind of listener helps the other person feel better just for having been there. They don’t have to fix the problem, they just have to listen.

It is just like lending someone something. If you have a new friend and you lend them a book it is best to lend them only one to start off with. See how they act with it. Do they give it back within a week? Or do they forget about it for a year? When they return it do they return it in the same condition that you lent it to them? Or is it dog-eared and underlined and dirty? Is the dust jacket ripped off? If they can properly handle one item that was lent to them, then you might lend them more next time. But you probably won’t let them borrow 10 at a time until they have really proven themselves.

The same is true with feelings. Not everybody can handle them. Sometimes they are just too heavy, or the person isn’t strong enough.