By Renee Bethel, Crosswalk.com
Have you ever listened to a problem that a family member or friend was sharing and immediately started giving them ideas for what they should do to make the situation better? "Read this book," "Take this supplement," "Buy this course," "Get more exercise," "Drink more water," and on and on it goes. The person listening to you acknowledges your suggestions, leaves the conversation, and never takes your advice. Your suggestions may be beneficial, but they fall short.
How about sharing your own experience when you hear about another person’s difficult situation? Hoping it will help, you quickly tell your story relating to the current struggle. While the story may have merit, it puts the focus on you and takes the focus off the person sharing who just needed a listening ear and some encouragement.
Your desire to help and support those you care about is rooted in love, compassion, and empathy. It’s difficult to see your friends and family walk through hard things. However, it’s important to understand the limitations of your role in addressing the problems and struggles of others. You can better navigate these situations by focusing on active listening, self-reflection, respecting personal journeys, and relying on God’s wisdom and sovereignty.
In your human-ness, you cannot fix anyone else’s problems or struggles, and here’s why:
1. Listening Should Be Your First Response
In your eagerness to assist, you may jump into fix-it mode before truly hearing the full story. There is immense power in being an attentive listener. Sometimes, all someone needs is a listening ear and an empathetic heart.
By refraining from imposing your own ideas and stories, you can create a safe space where others feel heard and valued. This involves deeper listening to truly hear, not just surface listening to respond, and this is a rare gift to the other person.
Proverbs 18:13 reminds us that speaking before truly listening is unwise and leads to shame. Instead, let’s practice being quick to listen and slow to speak, recognizing that sometimes the best thing we can offer is our undivided attention and encouragement.
2. You Have Limitations
While your intentions may be genuine, it’s important to recognize that you cannot fix someone else’s problems or struggles. You must avoid coming across as judgmental or condescending by assuming you know what is best for someone else.
Instead of attempting to fix another person, you can humbly acknowledge that you have your own areas of growth and challenges to navigate. Matthew 7:3 warns against focusing on the speck in your brother’s eye while ignoring the plank in your own.
You can redirect your focus inward on yourself. By cultivating self-awareness and striving for personal growth, you become a living example of the transformation you desire to see in others.
3. The Situation Is Complex
Each person and their issues are complex, and rarely is there a simple, one-size-fits-all solution. It’s vital to acknowledge that you do not possess all of the information needed to offer a comprehensive solution.
The only person who knows all of the details about the situation at hand is the person dealing with the situation. Consequently, they are the best person equipped to find a solution.
Rather than providing quick fixes, you can be curious and ask thoughtful questions that help your friend or family member explore various possibilities to discover a resolution. This empowers them to find their own way with God’s guidance.
In being curious and asking questions, you create an environment of trust and collaboration that allows for deeper exploration and growth.
4. You Must Honor Others’ Personal Growth
God created each one of us with free will and the capacity to make our own choices. Every individual is on a unique journey of personal growth and transformation. While it may be tempting to bear the burdens of others, you must respect their path and allow them the opportunity to learn, make mistakes, grow, and mature.
Galatians 6:5 reminds us that each person must bear their own load. Instead of trying to fix someone else, you can offer your support through prayer and genuine empathy. Trusting in God’s sovereignty, you can release your desire to control the situation and allow His perfect plan to unfold.
5. You Must Honor God’s Sovereignty
You must remember that you are not God. He has a purpose and plan for everything that occurs in your life and the lives of others. When you feel compelled to intervene, you can surrender the person and their situation to God, trusting Him to work in ways beyond your comprehension.
His plans are always good, even when you can’t see that now. Think about how much you care about the person you want to rescue from their pain. Remember that God loves them more than you do. This always helps me when one of my adult children is having a hard time, and I start to get caught in fix-it mom mode.
As humans, we have limitations. We cannot change another person or situation. God is the only one who can bring lasting transformation to any person or situation.
It’s in moments of surrender that you can experience a profound sense of peace and faith. By acknowledging your limitations and placing your trust in God, you invite His wisdom and power to work in the lives of those you care about.
In your journey as a Christian, it’s essential to recognize and respect the boundaries of your role in helping others.
What would happen if you did not quickly try to fix other people’s problems? What would happen if you asked a few questions instead of offering a quick-fix solution? What would happen if you really listened when others were sharing their struggles?
James 1:19 tells us that we should be quick to listen and slow to speak.
What can you do instead of trying to fix a person or situation?
While you can’t fix someone else, you can support and encourage them through prayer and offering a listening ear. By learning to be an attentive listener, you create a safe space for others to share their hearts and find solace in being heard.
Offering encouragement and understanding can foster a deeper connection with others and demonstrates Christ’s love in a tangible way. Our role is to point others to God and His transformative power. Trusting in God’s sovereignty and understanding that change and growth are ultimately in His hands can provide comfort in challenging situations.
Ultimately, each person is responsible for their own actions, and until they take ownership of what needs to be done to move forward, there’s nothing you can say or do that will affect change or growth in their life.
Position yourself as a mom, spouse, friend, or family member who desires to understand the struggle that your family and friends are experiencing. Learn to ask good, clarifying questions that help them explore how they feel, verbally process, and formulate their next steps around the situation they are facing.
This is the best gift that you can give another person–to truly listen to them and walk alongside them as they walk through hard seasons. May you be known as a person who listens with compassion, trusts in God’s plan, and offers unwavering support.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Prostock-Studio
Renee Bethel, author of Finding Me: A Woman’s Guide to Learning More About Herself is a Professional Christian Life Coach and a Gospel Centered Certified Enneagram Coach. She helps Christian women explore what’s possible and live in alignment with their identity in Christ and their personality so that they have purpose in their second half of life. Renee would love to connect with you on Instagram.