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This is a guest post by Joani, devoted wife and mother of five adventuresome boys aged 7-16. A former homeschooling mom, she now serves as Assistant Director/Client Services Director at East Texas Pregnancy Help Center and studies at Liberty University. She is eternally grateful for her Saviour who redeemed her life. She is as kind a woman you will ever meet, and she also plays a mean violin! In this post she continues to evaluate different ways of speaking about abortion. You can read her first post here.

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22)

We all can recount in our own individual lives memories of past suffering.  Deep hurts.  The type of hurt that makes you desperate to see a light somewhere, the pain that makes you wonder if you will ever recover, and the anguish that gives you sleepless nights…. and the taunting belief that you’ll never feel “ok” again.  My friend sat before me, tears streaming down her cheeks.  A choice stared her in the face bleakly, as she struggled to cope with what seemed impossible.  Alone.  Scarred.  Betrayed.  Now here she sat, left with an unplanned pregnancy, heartbreak, and a life deteriorating disease.  The choice was actually, dare I breathe again?    Memories flooded my mind as a reminder of emotions that I had experienced with my own crisis pregnancy that actually brought me to the doors of an abortion clinic 17 years ago.  I thought more about the call to authentically love, without agendas, in ways that would be helpful to the hurting and confused.  I thought again about how comparisons hurt me so deeply, and brought insult upon injury.  I prayed, how can we grow to love more as Christ? Not only in person to person ministry, but as we minister to the whole of society. Cos, let’s face it… if it isn’t helpful or effective…. why would we continue to do so?  Let’s consider together four of the ways comparisons can affect others.

1. Comparisons make me feel like it is somehow my fault that I hurt deeply.  Possibly we have said, “You’ll get over this. Other people have gone through way harder things and they overcame.  Their issues seem worse than yours, and yet you are still hurting about this?”  And I heard, “YOU need to suck it up, YOU are being a baby about your pain and others are stronger than you.”

And my heart hurt worse.

2. Comparisons make me think you aren’t really listening to my heart cry, and maybe don’t understand the specific nature of my pain.  Sometimes we have even interrupted before others are finished stuttering to try explaining the nature of their hurt, and then we said, “You’ll get through this.  There are pains far worse, and I know so n’ so who went through a tragedy, and she kept a smile on her face the entire time.  Nobody even prayed with her once, or gave her any encouragement.”  I then thought about how I didn’t even get to finish my outcry, and maybe I should just stay silent and be strong alone.

And my heart suffered alone.

3. Comparisons make me further look at how helpless and hopeless I really am to move forward… and offers me no solution.   “This story reminds me so much of what all so n’ so walked through.  You may be going through a divorce, but she had a separation from her estranged daughter for a year and it hurt her badly.  So, this is what she did, and you need to do the same thing too!”  And we hear, “Your own hurt that you are walking through is not really unique, and you should just hurry and get it figured out by doing what everyone else before you has done.”  When others don’t understand my specific pain, and then compare with generalizations my heart wonders if my own hurt has a solution.  A solution, even just a tiny step past the pain I’m experiencing today, has to be unique for my situation.  Comparison lumps everything together in my mind, and I feel more overwhelmed.

And I wonder if I can face tomorrow. 

Recognizing similarities is not the same thing as comparing.  Empathy is helpful.   Shoulder to shoulder carrying one another’s pain is different than demeaning the pain through tactics.  I don’t want to be a problem that needs to be “fixed,” I yearn to be loved and offered light when I can’t see.

Recently, I spoke with a young lady who sat before me tearfully – carrying burdens that made it difficult to even breathe.  It was a beautiful opportunity to pour out the love and hope for tomorrow that has been so freely poured into my life.

“You’ve tasted pain.”  She said it slowly.  She stared me straight in the eyes almost as if she was looking deep down into my soul.  She was scared.  She was hopeless.  She searched for something in my eyes…. Something to cling to, and all at the same time our hearts bonded together in camaraderie.

“I see it in your eyes.  You’ve tasted it.  You know what pain is.”

I felt a sad twisting in my stomach.  I remembered the bitterness that poisoned me and the hurt that seemed to have no end.  The stupidity I carried for ever having given my trust to someone.  I remembered the feelings of betrayal, the spilling of my tears replaced by dry-eyed loneliness.  Then a small smile crept slowly across my face.  I remembered that my biggest fear was that I could not ever humanly live again after such agony.  How dare I breathe again when breathing only brought sharp, icy pangs of death?  But, the tiny smile reminded me that I did indeed lose.  I lost it all, but a Champion won my heart.

The opportunity was there with this beautiful soul to empathize and intercede, not compare or slight her issues.   I had the opportunity to listen, listen, listen.  I had the opportunity to offer true hope, while speaking truth into the specific situation that was presented.

Many have said to me, “feelings don’t count”.   I disagree with that statement, and that would be a discussion for another day.  J  But a question to ask is this:  Will they care about what we have to say if at first they don’t see how much we care?

The same is true for our society.  Turmoil spins all around.  We criticize, judge, and make people-issues that are so painful into our “projects”.  Comparisons sometimes help agendas more than they heal hearts.  It’s our job to always reconsider why we do things the way that we choose to, and look for better ways to communicate God’s love.  We need to see beyond our own attempts to raise awareness, and focus on Christ.  Our desire to authentically know Him, and display His truth does not come from trying so hard to find ways to alert the people with comparisons and shock-value tactics, but with His passion, truth and love bringing healing to our community.

My heart reminded me of my Champion who has overcome fear, pain, and death.  The Champion who gently led me to turn my car out of the parking lot of that clinic 17 years ago, and now, daily I embrace my son who reminds me every moment of the miracle that authentic love can work in a heart.

You know this passage below, but read it again today… slowly, prayerfully… and let’s ask Him again how we can love like Him.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”  1 Cor. 13:1-8 (ESV)

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3 thoughts on “Communicating Authentic Love by Not Resorting to Unhelpful Comparisons”

  1. Nicole says:

    This post is so beautiful. It is nourishing and right and clear and full of our sweet Christ’s power and compassion. Thank you, Thabiti for your constant, persevering river of humility and strength. Thank you, Joani, for writing this. Both of you are so clearly leaning heavy on Christ. It makes me cry some sweet tears.

  2. Curt Day says:

    Some of the comparisons mentioned here indicate an urgency expressed by the listener to insure that the current pain and problem will be fully resolved here on earth. Perhaps that urgency expresses a fear that a pain or problem experienced by the listener will not be resolved here on earth. In either case, not all of the pains we experience or have caused will be resolved on earth.

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Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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