Quote of the Day


musings on encouragement vs support

I've been very impatient with, and even annoyed by, people who beset me with tales of someone they knew with a back injury that is walking now. I want to shout: "Damaged bones are different from damaged spinal cords!!" but I know they mean well so I smile and nod. But it really really bugs me.

I've been thinking it over and I think what is really bothering me though, is not the misunderstanding about bones vs spinal cord, but something that I touched on in a comment on Debbie's post and again on in my Mother's Day post.

. . . I far prefer empathy over encouragement.
It is the difference between offering encouragement versus offering support. Encouragement says, 'have hope that things will get better'. Support says, 'wow, this sounds really tough.'

The underlying theme of encouragement is, 'it had better get better, because as is, it sounds pretty hard,' but encouragement doesn't go to the hard place with you. It just tries to rush you past it and onto better days. If your situation is not going to resolve quickly, the rushing appears to be for the other's benefit (not having invest anything into sharing empathy). It is certainly not to the benefit of whomever is struggling.

Another way of looking at is is that people who give empathy are joining me where I am: sad, grieving, fearful. People offering encouragement are asking me to join them where they are: hopeful, optimistic, un-burdened. I think on whole, we have handled Dad's injury as positively as possible, but this doesn't mean I don't grieve. And when I am grieving (approximately every day that has a y in it), I don't want to be pushed back to the happy-place. I need to be supported in the sad place.

So, I have learned that I far prefer empathy over encouragement. How about you?

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