What to do when our wider supporters hurt us

when your wider watchers hurt you www.calledtowatch.com #caregiver #struggle #chronicillness #writer #hope #chronic #faith #watching #spoonie

Wider supporters will hurt us at times

I think it’s important to acknowledge that either directly or inadvertently, wider supporters can sometimes make life harder rather than easier. It’s part of being human and living in a broken world.

They may:

  • Brush away your complaints or concerns. “Ah well, sickness is part of life, isn’t it? We all have burdens.”
  • Ask you to take up ministry opportunities when your life is full of caring for your Loved One
  • Compare your suffering to theirs, “Oh I know exactly how you feel”
  • Tell you exactly how they feel – without asking how you are
  • Assume they know what you need, or what you ought to do
  • Treat you differently because you are a Watcher
  • Treat you exactly the same, as if being a Watcher has not affected you.
  • Treat you as a walking newsletter, rather than an individual in your own right

In all this, we must remember that we are wider supporters too!

Why is it so painful when wider supporters hurt us?

Why do we find it hard to forgive or overlook when others react less-than-ideally to our situation? I think it’s because:

  • We were made for community – and fractured relationships hurt
  • Deep in our hearts we know what an ideal world looks like – and when life around us doesn’t match up, we become frustrated and sad
  • We love our wider supporters – and are hurt when they don’t seem to love us back
  • We love our Loved Ones – and don’t want them hurt by the thoughtlessness or ignorance of others
  • We love ourselves – and don’t want to be hurt or belittled, especially when we can’t change our situation

How NOT to respond when your wider supporters hurt you (my story)

I could talk about love here, and patience, and following the example of Jesus… but first of all I’m going to share a story from my own life. After all, when you have been hurt responding well is hard – and I don’t think we should gloss over that.

When I was younger I was standing in a crowded foyer. I was close enough to two wider supporters to accidentally overhear their conversation, yet they did not see me.

Wider Watcher #1: This Loved One… she is meant to be too sick to make it to church much and yet she looked so well the other day when I saw her out. It’s interesting how she can be well enough for that and not for church.

Wider Watcher #2: That’s part of the unfortunateness of her disease, she’s never sure when she will be well, and I assure you she is genuinely unable to be at church when she’s not here.

The conversation doesn’t seem like much, recorded here – yet it was the subject of much anguish to me.

when our wider watchers hurt us #chronicillness #suffering #loneliness #caregiver #pain #caregiving #spoonie #faith #God #Hope when our wider watchers hurt us #chronicillness #suffering #loneliness #caregiver #pain #caregiving #spoonie #faith #God #Hope

How did I respond?

Firstly, I was bone-shakingly furious and promised I would never forgive Wider Watcher #1. Dimly beneath my rage I realised that to confront Wider Watcher #1 would cause me to greatly sin (I was so angry) so I walked away.

Then, I pledged I would never, ever tell my Loved One of what I overheard, because they would be devastated.

Later, after cooling down, I decided that as a Christian I ought to forgive Wider Watcher #1. And I told myself I had… yet continued to nurse the bitterness in my heart for years.

I felt sick and alone (did anyone understand my Loved One? or me?) and absolutely determined to make sure that everyone who I spoke to about my Loved One received an accurate picture of their pain and suffering.

I resolved never to tell anyone what Wider Watcher #1 said, because I knew that my motive for doing so would be to injure that Wider Watcher. I would be acting out of bitterness.

I’m ashamed to say I broke that promise once in the following ten years. I did so purely to satisfy my desire for retaliation, and still regret it today.
wider watchers hurt

A better way of responding when your wider supporters hurt you

These steps aren’t lifted from a book or resource, so I cannot tell you that they are proven or true, but in my life they  have been very helpful.

1: Step away

This is an emotional situation, and one in which we are more likely to sin than we are to be gracious and loving.

When we wait before we respond, we are equipping ourselves to respond rightly.

It might be ten minutes, it might be ten days – it might even be ten years (as in my case) before you can talk about the problem without anger and dissatisfaction boiling in your heart.

2: Acknowledge that it hurt

No good ever came out of sweeping a hurt under the mat, or pretending it did not hurt.

3: Acknowledge that it was wrong

Just because it hurt, doesn’t mean it was wrong.

The only way to decide whether the wider supporter was truly in the wrong is to measure their actions against a standard. Mine is the Bible.

If they did wrong, we need to acknowledge this – and also that we are capable of similar wrongs!

4: Decide who was injured the most

In painful situations often everyone involved is injured to some degree, whether they sin or are sinned against. Often however, one person or party walks away with the majority of the resentment, pain or frustration.

The resolution of the situation depends on which person is most affected. Here are three ways it might play out as Watchers:

You (a Watcher) leave the situation filled with anger, while your Loved One and the wider supporter seem to brush it off relatively easily. In this case, you must be the one to act, to extend a hand of forgiveness. You can seek Jesus’ help to do so.

You (a Watcher) and the wider supporter are able to walk away almost unaffected, but your Loved One is hurt and angry. Instinctively we want to take their side and make the wider supporter pay. Rather, it is better wait, pray and try to point our Loved One to Jesus. This is hard.

You (a Watcher) and your Loved One are able to leave the situation feeling calm while the wider supporter is frustrated and angry. It can be tempting to do nothing – and allow them to suffer out of revenge. Instead perhaps we need to talk to them (after first waiting and praying) and ask how we can best point them to Jesus.

5: Decide who can forgive 

Not who must forgive, because if I phrased it that way we would all get huffy and stick our backs up, exclaiming ‘Well! I don’t have to forgive. You can’t force me to.’

No, and forced forgiveness is not forgiveness at all. But who can possibly, potentially, forgive?


The answer is always you.

Anyone can forgive, and it doesn’t matter if you weren’t the ‘most’ injured.

Forgiveness is not forgetting the injury, it’s absorbing it. On the cross Christ did not conveniently ‘forget’ our trespasses, He simply bore the consequences in Himself.

When we forgive, we lay aside our desire to retaliate (and thus force the consequences, the hurt and the pain onto the perpetrator) and instead allow the hurt both to exist and end in us.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s extremely difficult – but it can be done. Not through ‘inner strength’ or stoicism, but through Jesus. He alone can turn out hurt and bitterness into peace – because in Him we have the assurance that one day He will judge justly, and also that ultimately it is only His words and actions that matter.

We will never respond perfectly to hurt, and that’s okay

I didn’t respond well ten years ago when I overheard those hurtful words, and all too often I don’t now. Yet my prayer is that we Watchers will seize every painful opportunity to turn to Jesus. That in our hurt we will rely on His strength, not our own, and in doing so, our tears will become our glory.

// Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you respond? How could you have responded better?

this is the second post in a series:

Why do our ‘wider supporters’ matter?

How to love our wider supporters

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Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

4 thoughts on “What to do when our wider supporters hurt us”

  1. Hello Emily, thank you for another wonderful post, I’m now looking forward to Monday’s because I know I’ll get to read another Watchers post! I certainly can relate to your post here, from feeling bitter to feeling the need to learn to forgive, and to turn to Jesus even with tears, trusting that He knows and understands all the pain/frustration/ bitterness. I too admit that there have been times when I had to deal with people’s lack of empathy at my loved one’s condition, from weird looks, to jeers, to outright accusations without fully understanding what was really going on in our lives. Those experiences were painful, and even though I never said anything back or argue, I was harbouring bitterness and the desire to retaliate in many different sinful ways. And little did I know that this bitterness has been causing a disease in my heart, causing things like depression, even putting stings in my relationship with the person I loved, whom I was hoping to protect from all the hurt from the world. Thinking back, and having help from others, I realised I failed to acknowledge that when the wider Watchers, or anyone from the world hurt us, it hurt. I guess I was too afraid to have to confront with dealing with these emotions that I buried them, instead of admitting I and my family were hurt. Maybe it was pride too, that blinded us. But God has been good, He humbled my pride, helped me to admit that I was weak and I was hurt, but I could turn to Him for strength, because He is willing, He is kind, and He is strong. I still struggle with my own pride now, and deep down the uncertainty of living with someone I love with disabilities. It does reminds me daily though, that I can do nothing without God, and that He is always there.
    Sorry for a super long post! I didn’t realise I wrote so much! It’s been a difficult few days…
    I’m just wondering, and sorry if you have addressed this earlier, but how are you, i guess emotionally and mentally, living with your loved ones with chronic illnesses? Have these illnesses ever strained your relationship with them? In my case because of the condition my loved one is having, apathy is something I have to deal with on a daily basis, and as much as I don’t want to admit, it’s something thats been putting a lot of strain in our relationship. So I’m just wondering if you have ever shared anything on that, or perhaps something that a future post can address on? Like what if our loved ones don’t understand or want our care/ love as much as we want to give them… i don’t know just an idea : P Thanks Emily!

    1. Hi Nat! Thank you so much for your comment and thoughts – such a well-thought out response means so much! I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles, and feel I can empathise with you – it’s so hard, and our God is so good, but that doesn’t make the reality any less difficult.
      Thank you for your thoughts for posts, I may re-shuffle the order I was planning on writing a few thanks to your suggestions – if you have more or there’s any other topics you’d be interested in seeing, let me know! I’ve actually already written a few posts which sound similar to your suggestions (“Help, my Loved One hates me!” and “Help, I hate my Loved One!”), but they haven’t been posted yet. They should go live in September 🙂 But if they don’t address what you were expecting, again, let me know. Perhaps this post might be interesting in the meantime if you haven’t already seen it https://calledtowatch.com/2017/02/06/help-ive-run-out-of-sympathy/

Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you, friend.