What's your response when someone you love is hurting?
The pain I'm referring to isn't a physical one. It's not as if you just saw your best friend trip over their own feet and skin their knee. If it were me watching that happen, there's a good chance I'd laugh. Sure, I'd ask if they were okay in between chuckles. But a good, non-serious injury is always worth a giggle or two.
Here I'm talking about the kind of pain that isn't on the surface. You can't necessarily see it when you're face to face with your friend. It's not a cut or a bruise that shows up over night. You can't just look at them and ask, "What happened?" The pain I'm referring to is much more subtle.
I'm talking about a pain that comes from psychological and emotional turmoil. In a lot of ways, this sort of pain can cause much more damage and have more far reaching consequences than a broken bone or a deep gash could ever have. And more often than not, when the people we know are in this kind of pain, we never suspect it.
People like to put on a good front. They don't want to burden you with their problems. You might look them in the eyes and assume that everything is just fine, simply because there's a smile resting a few inches below those eyes. But what happens when you're not around anymore? What happens to that person when they go into their bedroom and find themselves alone? What thoughts and memories plague them in the darkness?
Eventually this pain will manifest itself. Signs of stress or depression will begin to emerge in your friend or family member. But what can you do then? I think that depends on the person that's hurting.
I have bad days. There are days when I find myself angry at someone, or maybe just unhappy with the world at large. On those days I like to shut myself down. I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't want to have contact with even my closest friends. I just want to be left alone. If I had it my way, I'd close the blinds so even the daylight couldn't find me. Left to myself, I'd shy away from anything unpleasant, and even the burden of my responsibilities would eventually be more than I could handle.
I thank God that, when I've had those days, I have friends who have reached out to me. I may ignore their good intentions for awhile, but they remain persistent, and eventually I break out of that shell of pity that I build up around myself.
But what happens to the person who becomes ignored by the people they once counted on for love and support? What happens when the people who were thought of as friends and mentors leave a hurting person to fend for themselves? The downward spiral becomes heartbreaking and tragic.
There are a lot of hurting people out there. And there's a good chance that someone you love, one of your closest friends, is one of those pained people. Be perceptive. Be persistent. Be compassionate and be loving. Be patient and be understanding. Inspire hope where hope seems to be lost. You might just be saving a life.