How many times have you heard the phrase, “Im doing this for your own good” and instantly felt seen, heard or loved? I’m going to be bold and say, probably never!
If you grew up in a strict, traditional big Chinese family like I did, I am sure you were always hearing this phrase being thrown about. It could be the smallest matter like asking you to eat more vegetables, or a bigger deal like telling you to lose weight or pushing you towards a career you have no interest in. Whatever it is, that phrase seldom goes down well, yet so many people continue saying it.
A person who says “I’m doing this for your own good” appears to be a caring one. They seem to genuinely want to help. They seem to have everything figured out and are presenting you with the best option. However, when we truly think about it, the core message of “I’m doing this for your own good” sounds more like this: “I know what’s best for you more than you do”, “If you do what I say, you will have no trouble”, “You will regret if you don’t do what I say” and most importantly, “I have no confidence in your ability to make decisions for yourself”.
This phrase can be camouflaged in other forms. Even if some people don’t say those exact words, they do or say things that imply the same. This is particularly challenging for those on the receiving and are going through a tough time in life.
About a year ago, I went through a very traumatic experience that turned my life upside down due to betrayal. I remember still being in the “shock and denial” phase of the grief cycle when I was faced with people with “good intentions” who, unfortunately, said many things that made matters worse. Some examples of this are, “I totally understand what you are going through”, “Don’t worry, time will heal all wounds”, “Why are you crying? There is no point”, “God is in control” (with no further follow-up), “We don’t deserve anything. It is all a gift from God” (in response to “I don’t think I deserve any of this”), and the one that truly took the cake was “Your forgiveness for X is not complete until you can embrace them when you see them”. On the surface, these words sound harmless. In fact, most of it sounds very true and reasonable. However, if presented to a person who is deeply hurting, there may be catastrophic consequences. 𝗡𝗼𝘁 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗱, 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝗹𝘆 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗲𝗺𝗽𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗰.
Here is something I did not know until I went through it personally. When I was at my lowest, I was bombarded with a myriad of ideas and suggestions on how to heal and move on. 𝗜 𝗳𝗲𝗹𝘁 𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗹𝗺𝗲𝗱 𝗯𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝘄𝗵𝗼𝗺 𝗜 𝗸𝗻𝗲𝘄 “𝗺𝗲𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹”. 𝗜𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗳𝗼𝗰𝘂𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝗻 𝗺𝘆 𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗷𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗻𝗲𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗿𝗲𝗰𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆, 𝗜 𝗳𝗲𝗹𝘁 𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝘅𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝗺𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝗿 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝗳𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿. 𝗜 𝗳𝗲𝗹𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝗳 𝗜 𝗱𝗶𝗱 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝗾𝘂𝗶𝗰𝗸 𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗿𝗲𝗰𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝘁𝗿𝗮𝘂𝗺𝗮, 𝗜 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗯𝗲 𝗹𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺 𝗱𝗼𝘄𝗻. 𝗧𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗻 𝗺𝗮𝗱𝗲 𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗵𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗺𝘆 𝗽𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝗲𝗰𝘂𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀. I felt a lot of guilt due to this external pressure and it became another issue I had to address and
overcome later on. The truth is, at that point in time, all I really needed was encouragement and comradery.
So here are a few tips for those who are reading this and feel challenged to be a better, more effective friend to someone you know who is in pain:
1. 𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗻𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗹𝘆 𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗼𝗻𝗲’𝘀 𝗽𝗮𝗶𝗻. Stop when you find yourself saying or doing something that implies you do.
2. There is such a thing as saying the right thing at the wrong time. If you are feeling awkward and do not know what to say, don’t say anything at all. 𝗔 𝗵𝘂𝗴 𝗴𝗼𝗲𝘀 𝗮 𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗴 𝘄𝗮𝘆!
3. 𝗪𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗹𝗼𝘄𝗲𝘀𝘁, 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗮𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗯𝗲 𝗮 𝘀𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗳𝗼𝗿𝘁.
4. Unless someone who is hurting approaches you specifically for advice, keep them to yourself however hard it may be.
I want to share this quote from the Asian-American author and
chaplain J.S. Park:
“Yes, Christians, ‘God is in control.’ No, Christians, that does not absolve you of responsibility, accountability, rolling up your sleeves, digging in your heels, and doing the hard work of healing and justice and grieving together.”