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Pointers on Counseling

Have you ever stood by and watched guilt or grief or some other kind of pain eat away at someone you cared about? You may have felt nearly as helpless as that hurting person. What can you do for the friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor whose life is coming apart from inner pain? Some ways you may be able to help hurting people....

1. Listen. Use your ears more than your mouth. Don’t let the urge to offer advice get in the way of hearing what the person has to say. Usually, just having someone who cares enough to really listen will help relieve a hurting heart.

2. Ask questions. They can be hard, pointed, maybe even leading questions. This approach will often help people look at options they may not have considered. Just as important, it lets them make their own decisions.

3. Don’t be squeamish. Where there’s an infection, there’s pus. You will probably feel uncomfortable at first about getting into the details of another person’s pain. But that person may need to express things most people don’t want to hear.

4. Don’t be judgmental. If it’s guilt poisoning someone’s heart, you might hear a confession that will shock or sicken you. Try to remember the old saying, “Love the sinner and hate the sin.” Instead of piling on more guilt, be a channel of God’s grace.

5. Don’t tattle. Legally and morally, you may not be able to keep everything a person tells you confidential. Yet you certainly have an obligation not to gossip.

6. Go get help. This isn’t always necessary. And you should get a hurting person’s permission before you take this step. But don’t think you have to help that person all by yourself, and don’t feel bad if someone needs more help than you can give.

7. Share the Good News. Don’t be shy about opening up your Bible. You might check a concordance or ask your pastor for appropriate passages. If the person doesn’t already belong to church, invite him or her to yours. There is grace in the communion of the saints.

8. Pray. Make sure you pray with and for people you want to help. They will appreciate it, and you will be leading them into the presence of our faithful Savior, who heals body and soul, in life and in death.

Bruce Anderson, Chaplain, US Naval Air, Fallon, NV, quoted in Lifeline, Fall, 1996, p. 2