Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cop Outs

"I don't understand what you are going through." "I can't even imagine what you must be good through." "I have no idea what it must feel like to be in the situation you are in."
Those are stupid, silly and blatantly ridiculous cop out statements that MUST BE AVOIDED!!!!
Yes, I am deadly serious in saying that.These statements have got to go!
I know you can't understand what I am going through. Here is the dirty little secret: Nobody needs to understand what the other person is going through in order to be an encourager to the suffering person. Are good counselors good counselors because they have experienced everything their clients have gone through? Not a chance! Good counselors are people who are gifted and are willing to work at trying their best to enter into the client's world and then seeking out the best coping strategies.
Why do our friends use these cop out statements? I have some theories.
They are not willing to take time to try to enter into our world. They are focused on their world, and their world is peachy great, and if you and I would just adopt their ways of doing things, then our world would also be peaches and cream. Here is the irony of it all. These are the people who say they cannot understand what you and I are going through, but they are at the front of the line when it comes to giving you and me advice.These are the people who have a book for you and me to read, or a CD to listen to, or a TV program to watch, or a retreat to attend, or anything for us to do as long as they don't have to be involved,  and if we will just follow what is written in that book, or listen to the CD 24/7,  we will get our lives together just as their life is together.
That saddens me, and quite frankly, I find zero encouragement from such people.
Another theory I have for why people use cop outs is because they are to afraid to try to understand our scary world of cancer, death, chemo and vomiting. They are too fearful they may not cope with the information you and I give them. These people are turtles. Just let me climb into my well protected world, and you who are struggling, STAY AWAY from me.
How sad. Recently a friend confided in me about the strange absence of his best friends during a really difficult time. "Where are my friends?" he was asking. They are turtles. Retreating into their fortified walls of security far away from you and me and our problems. Turtles turtle because they don't know what to say. Well, they have already acknowledged that they actually have nothing to say since they can't anyhow identify with you and me, so they are correct- they don't know what to say. The first positive sign.
I have a wonderful friend in whom over the years I have often confided in. This person does not always understand what I am going through, but that's alright. This person is such an encourager because she/he goes to make the effort to try his/her best to understand my world  I live in. She/he asks pertinent questions about me. He/she is slow to share from her/his own life. But the key is that this person tries desperately to understand my situation. I always leave his/her home feeling much better than when I came.
"For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things, as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15
Thanks for your prayers. I really cherish them all.


  1. I can appreciate this Posting and am encouraged by it. There are probably those who might say, WHAT IS CHUCK ON? Why is he so negative? This is why I cannot stand consultants, or even sometimes analysts especially in hockey. For these are typically people who were not up to the task of being a professional hockey player, or excel in their professional they turn analyst, giving advice to others in situations they may have failed in.

    Uncle Chuck I encourage you, that through this Posting, that you will find people you may have offended....but you may also find people who really GET IT....and will not shy away from continuing to bless you with their encouragement.



  2. Wow Chuck...I disagree that people use this statement as a cop out. I think alot of them say it out of respect. They don't know what your world of cancer, death, chemo and vomiting is and don't want you to think that they do, when they haven't gone through it. How many times have I wanted to comment on your posts and HOPE I say the right things? I have been so hurt by the things people have said to me after Andrew and Marj died...but I choose to believe they mean well and they do care. I would rather have my pain acknowledged than ignored. If you found a book or CD that gave you comfort wouldn't you want to share it with someone else who was suffering? I appreciate your honesty in your blogs...You're a brave man to share your feelings with all of us. Bob & I pray for you and Julia every day...May you find encouragement with every person you meet! ~Judy

  3. Thanks Curt and Judy for your responses. I re-read my post, and I think I have not stated anything that I need to take back. I may have missed the reasons why people say the "cop out" statements, but I think I am pretty close to knocking it out of the park too. I hope people read the entire post. I am afraid they may not read much past line 7 without already having formed their opinion on the matter, and therefore don't really hear what I have to say past line 8. Judy, you are so right. People mean to say the best wishes for us, but in so doing they blow it royally. Yep, just love them anyhow- they never meant to hurt us. Judy, my post is filled with suggestions and encouragement on how to approach a hurting person, and the example of my friend at the end of the post is what I wish everyone did.
    Curt, your words leave me with nothing to say except thanks for entering my world of puke, chemo, crap and pain. You are priceless.

  4. I normally do not repsond to these blogs, but since Chuck & I spoke about this yesterday, here is my opinion:

    I have most likely said some of these things to people in the past. The reason I would make a comment like that is because I would not want to minimize the situation they are going through. I feel FOR them but cannot feel WITH them.

    Chuck (My Dear Husband) the commments you made make me afraid to say things to people because I might say the wrong thing.

    When I hear comments that strike me the wrong way I choose to believe that the people are saying something nice, it might just not be coming out right in my opinon.

    We cannot make people say things in a certain way, but we can choose to take them (understand them) a certain way.

    Your loving wife.

  5. Ah yes, dealing with your husband. I don't know how you do it, especially when he sticks out his neck like this. I still feel strongly the way I did when I wrote the blog, but perhaps I can polish the stone a bit. For me it's just important that I get the feeling the other person is seeking to get into my world- knowing full well they may not attain that goal. But knowing they are trying is all a hurting person wishes. The best way to allow yourself to get into the other person's life is to let them talk and talk and talk.
    Your loving husband

  6. For some the words written will be offensive because they are true! Sometimes people feel they MUST say something because...let me tell you from experience, the most encouraging people are those who just come along side. They speak when asked to they help where it is apparent help is required. Just being there, just sitting beside you, reading or praying silently. I rememeber those who would try to "cheer" me up, speak lots and lots of words, I remember more fondly those who just WERE THERE!

    In our lifetime we will be confronted with times that will be our defining moments of how we show Jesus. He offended many, encouraged more and died to save us all (if we but believe)! He was not always "liked" and more often that not His actions and/or words offended the "norm"!
    Chuck, you have touched many, many people by your interpretation of what the situation at hand required!. Don't ever change that!


  7. If everyone would read what you said then I would not have anything else to add to it. I am blessed to have you as blood kin. Yes, people make a visit hard on them when they belabour what they are going to say. Wise words you use, Eldon. Thanks.

  8. I appreciate all the different feedback on this particular blog.... I must say that I have often used these lines... and most certainly not as a cop out. If I were to tell you that I understood exactly how you felt or what it must be like, you would think that was ridiculous..... so I come alongside Judy and Julia on this one. We really do mean well and want to be there and those words will often accompany this feeling. I also do not want to be afraid to talk to people for fear of saying the wrong things.... I think it is great to be made aware of what this might sometimes feel like in your shoes but in the same breath... one day these words might cause irritation and the next day those same words, might not affect us at all.... and then in those times to extend grace to people like us, who just want to be there for you....

    The one thing I have really appreciated Chuck, as I have spent some time with you, is that I do not have to be afraid to discuss any facets of your journey with you. You are honest and real... and thanks for all the ways you have challenged me personally and especially on a spiritual level.

    I pray for you and love you guys.....

  9. It's a common thing to want to say something. If only I had the magic words and just be able to say them. Naw, that's not what it's about Kim. Job's friends were are their best when they said nothing. We know others cannot identify fully with our situation. They don't have to in order to be a help. They just need to listen and ask questions that show they are trying to enter your world. It's not rocket science but simple lego engineering. Thanks for your response, Kim. Chin up, lady, and let's be a servant to someone today.