Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Week of Wisdom: Heatherly Sylvia

"You are a steward of all that you learned in the valleys."

Those powerful words from Carol Davis changed my entire perspective on sharing my story. I spent most of my college years and seasons of a few years in the "real world," battling a very real battle with depression and anxiety.

I learned a lot and ended up much healthier physically, emotionally, and spiritually as a result of my personal war, but I also ended up with a lot of battle scars. Many of those scars I received from fellow faith-livers, who, with the best of intentions, caused more injury when I was already the walking wounded.

As a result of these wounds, and the fear of being judged for a condition that so many in church-going circles misunderstand, I didn't often share my story, and I certainly did not share the wisdom I had painfully (and gratefully) gleaned along the way.

But I'm braver now, thanks to Carol's words and the encouragement of people who have benefited from hearing my story. I've learned, through their stories, that it didn't matter if they had lived with depression, or simply had pain in their hearts, what I had experienced ministered to their spirits.

May I share with you some of the wisdom I now carry in my (mostly) healed-up heart? 

Photo courtesy of 2355 Photography
Never tell someone you "know how they feel." You don't. Even if you have been through similar situations. It is not helpful. I become suspect whenever someone tells me they know how I feel. I brace myself for unsolicited advice or a long, drawn-out story of their own woes. Friendship is two sided, but when you're talking to a hurting heart, it's time to listen.

Don't use scripture as a band-aid; it may feel like a bomb. Don't misunderstand me—a huge portion of my testimony and the basis of my speaking ministry is the truth that replacing the untruths of this world and ourselves with the living and active Truth of God is a powerful and essential thing. 

But has this ever happened to you? A well-meaning, but ill-equipped saint feels the need to say something anything to help, so they throw one of the promises of God in your lap? When I am healing, it does help to know and trust that "all things work together for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purposes," but when the wound is fresh, it feels like a flaming arrow. Make sure that your use of Scripture is sincere and well-timed.

The September 2011 issue of ParentLife  includes and article about supporting friends who have just learned of a special needs diagnosis for their child. I believe the wise words of Amy Felton Lee are true for the friends and family of anyone who is hurting.

She writes:

"Acknowledge the pain: Nothing you can say will lessen the pain and grief a family may be experiencing. Often well-meaning expressions can be received as an effort to diminish the feeling of loss. Avoid common and well-meaning sentiments like these:

·      Any statement that begins with "At least..."
·      "God doesn't give us more than we can handle."
·      "Everything happens for a reason."
Instead, let your presence be their present. In 2009, I wrote a blog post on the Jewish practice of shiva after the loved one of a friend passed away. I learned that it is our presence and silent support that is the most helpful to a hurting friend- whether they are grieving the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a dream, or having to adjust to a "new normal." I believe we could all benefit from someone saying to us, "I know that right now you are in deep, deep pain, and I am sorry." 

Let us all weigh our words carefully when we are given the blessing of being a supportive friend. 


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Heatherly Lane Sylvia is a mom, wife, homeschooler, speaker, aspiring writer, and apprentice grace-giver. Her greatest desire is to live a life following after God with abandon, and she hopes to be a blessing to as many people as she can while she figures out exactly how to do that. Het is passionate, loud, addicted to books, and loves her friends, old and new. She adores the blogosphere and would love to “meet” you there. She’s also pretty sure that blog comments and tweets  are her love language. Check out her blog A Pinkdaisy Life or follow her on Twitter @Pinkdaisyjane

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share, Rachel.

    And Happy Birthday!

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  2. "Don't use scripture as a band-aid; it may feel like a bomb." YES! Love this. Thank you for being so honest & real about your experience!

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  3. GIRL! I would be standing up and shouting AMEN if I was in your presence. So much truth in these words. You hit the nail on the head!

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  4. @Stacie

    Thanks, Stacie and Brittany. We so often want to "fix" things that we get in the way and make them worse. Here's to coming alongside in gentleness!

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  5. Het, this is pure awesome. I think sharing our valley experiences are so key in healing and understanding. These ideas are great from a (mostly) reformed wannabe fixer myself. Listening with an open heart is so important.

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  6. Thank you for stopping over, Carrie. I love you to pieces and so value the way you have allowed God to redeem your valley places into beauty. xoxo

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  7. @Brittany- It's so sad that I had to learn this the hard way. I have asked His forgiveness for all of the times I've unintentionally wounded with His Word, which we all know is only meant to heal. xo

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