Offering Grace When People Say the Wrong Thing

How do you respond to those who are in pain? It’s not an easy task to offer wisdom, sympathy, and reassurance when tragedy strikes those we love. Recently, I read an article about how, “Not to Say the Wrong Thing,” when others are facing a crisis. The article was spurred by the authors’ frustration with people who say insensitive things to those who are suffering. I agreed with the article and I will do my best to follow their suggestions. However, I don’t plan on holding others accountable to those suggestions. It’s just not fair.

People will say stupid things. People will say hurtful, ignorant, and downright selfish things. How do I know this? “Hello, my name is Jaclyn and I’m a person. I’ve said hurtful, ignorant and downright selfish things.” Currently, I am in recovery from being a person. I am trying very much to attain Christ-likeness but until that day comes, I’m going to need some grace from you all. Why should I expect more of others than of myself?

My fear is that an article like the one above will only cause people to shy away from their grieving friends/relatives because they are ashamed of their imperfection. “If I can’t say something right, I may as well say nothing at all.” We can’t always be expected to say the right thing, especially in the midst of anxiety-provoking events. Expecting people to eloquently respond to our grief will only result in frustration and isolation.

I have been guilty of being angry towards those who said candid remarks to me while I was pregnant. I showed those people no grace. Not to anyone’s face of course, but in my heart I was livid at their lack of comforting prose. I wanted them to reassure me that I was beautiful, that I was ok…. I wanted to feel that no one was judging me. To put all of that on others is not fair nor realistic. It’s just asking for heartbreak. People have their own issues that they are dealing with. Issues that cause them to say the wrong thing, whether it be intentional or not. This is why I think it’s not only unfair to expect others to say the right thing, it’s also foolish.

* * *

I’m currently reading another Timothy Keller gem, “Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything.” I have a little bit of a brain crush on Tim, I’m not gonna lie. I just love the way his mind works. This is the third Timothy Keller study we’ve done and each one has rocked my world. This one, is no different.

This one is all about grace. I am being challenged to accept the love of God on HIS terms. His terms are: acknowledge me as God, accept Christ as your savior, receive my grace. Grace. Unmerited favor. Unearned love. Undeserved acceptance. It is so difficult to fathom this phenomenon. When is the last time anyone loved you for you, not because of what you did or what you can offer, but because you are just YOU? It just doesn’t exist on earth. Well maybe it does, but not often. As I strive to allow God’s grace sink into my heart, I find myself wanting to share it with others.

Maybe we don’t experience grace often from others but does that mean that we can’t try offer  it to them? I know it isn’t easy. If you’ve read my blog you already know that I can be pretty harsh. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to become someone who offers grace freely. One of the most important things I took away from Grad School is that I am deeply broken and so is everyone else. I have no place to be harsh with others, I am just as fallible. I’m going to work on extending grace to people when they say the wrong thing. When I was pregnant and people said things that hurt me, Caleb encouraged me to see their heart behind their comments. Often, people were just trying to connect with me. When I looked at it like that, I felt a lot better about the situation.

I feel so much anxiety when someone is going through a traumatic event. I am so scared of saying the wrong thing. Yet, I’ve realized that it’s more important that people feel supported. I would rather someone say that I “meant well” than that I was absent in their pain. I hope that people can extend me grace if I don’t say the exact right thing. I hope that they can see my heart. In turn, I will try to see theirs.

If you liked this post, you may also like:
Sympathy for Christians

God is a Gentleman

Hope in the Face of Tragedy

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8 thoughts on “Offering Grace When People Say the Wrong Thing

  1. I needed this as the person who says things without thinking about how someone will receive it. I tend to be pretty opinionated even when people don’t ask for my opinion. Last week this happened, and I did say I am just not going to talk anymore. I am that extreme person. Instead, I was given grace and so then asked God to be in my words. I am sure I will offend again, but oh thank God for grace.

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  2. As you know my pastor is grieving from the worst possible loss. Greg Laurie recently was a guest pastor with a sermon addressing this exact issue. You should check it out, I think done 2 weeks ago. He suggested “there are no words”.
    With loss I always offer “I’m sorry for your loss”. Generic but it works. After being pregnant I would never say anything even possibly offensive. “You are so cute” works and “how are you/baby doing?” seems appropriate.

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  3. Sometimes I think it’s very difficult for us to accept God’s grace because it’s such a foreign concept in our world where EVERYTHING must be earned, deserved, bought. It takes humility.

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