True or false? ‘If you’ve had an easy life, don’t try to help’

Jun 1, 2017 by

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“A 20-some kid barely out of seminary shouldn’t presume to counsel a father dealing with his son’s fatal car crash.”

“A happily married woman with well-behaved kids and a successful job has no clue what it is like to have my family issues.”

“Your life is perfect. You know nothing about mine.”

I’ve been on all three sides of these statements:

  • The Hermit: I’ve thrown mega self-pity parties, assuming that no one else could ever understand my struggle.
  • The Avoider: I’ve used my easy life as an excuse to not get involved in another’s problem, being terrified of not knowing what to say or do.
  • The Bystander: I’ve winced as a brash, arrogant friend advises instead of listens.

The idea that one with an assumed “easy life” cannot help someone with a supposedly “harder life” is deceptively close to the truth. Obviously, tough situations are not appropriate times to pretend we have all the solutions. Yet, we can’t let this concept prevent us from accepting or offering love in pain.

Here is the truth:

  • No one’s story is the same. No one.
  • There is no absolute hierarchy of grief. A rebellious child could be more painful than an illness for one person and vice versa.
  • We never know another’s past or inner struggles. That person’s life may not have been as easy as we assume.
  • Pain is universal. It may be cloaked in differing circumstances, but we all understand pain and can empathize to an extent.
  • If we only got involved in the stories that were identical to ours — well, we’d never reach out.
  • We cannot expect to fully heal others’ pain. We are not God.
  • We need each other — even if we bumble and make mistakes when trying to comfort or counsel.
  • We need each other because our stories are different.

Yes, it is absolutely necessary to enter a painful situation with humility, sensitivity and compassion, but first we need to be willing to enter into the pain despite our fears and inadequacies.

Tabitha Driver is a Mennonite who loves glimpsing God’s goodness on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. She blogs at, where this post first appeared.

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