Wider Watchers do not have their day to day lives affected by our Loved One’s pain. They have the distance and freedom that at times we envy. They have the choice to involve themselves, and the ability to be a huge blessing and support to us and our Loved One.
But at times they get it wrong.
Wider Watchers hurt us
I think it’s important to acknowledge that either directly or inadvertently, Wider Watchers can make life harder rather than easier.
Sometimes they may:
- Belittle your suffering:
- 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
- Come across as matter-a-fact “Ah well, sickness is part of life, isn’t it? We all have burdens.”
- Not respond how we believe they should:
- Make assumptions (you need meals, lifts, hugs, have to do x, y and z) without asking or listening
- Treat you differently than they would if you Loved One were not sick
- Treat you exactly the same, when actually, Your Loved One’s suffering has affected you and you are not the same
- Treat you as a walking newsletter, suddenly talking to you now your Loved One is sick
Why do they hurt us?
Why is it painful when others react less-than-ideally to our situations? I think it’s because:
- We were made for community – and fractured relationships hurt
- We know, deep in our hearts, what an ideal world looks like – and when life around us doesn’t match up, we become frustrated and sad
- We love our Wider Watchers – 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 the situation
How did I respond?
We must look at our response to being hurt.
Because we will be hurt. It’s inevitable. Our Wider Watchers are not perfect (neither are we).
I could talk about love here, and patience, and following the example of Jesus… but first of all I’m going to share something that happened in my life.
Because responding well when someone has hurt you 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 Watchers 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.
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 did… and yet spent years nursing bitterness in my heart, having mentally forgiving them, but still hurting from their words.
I felt sick and alone (did anyone understand my Loved One?) 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 that 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 in order to satisfy my desire for retaliation, and have regretted the action ever since.
How can we respond?
These steps aren’t lifted from a book or resource, and so I cannot tell you that they are proven or true, but in my experience they are very helpful.
- Step away
We need to acknowledge that it is an emotional situation. That we are more likely to sin than we are to be gracious and loving. Waiting before we respond helps. You’ll know when you’ve let go of rage enough to deal with the problem. It might be ten minutes, it might be ten days – it might even be ten years (as in this case) before you talk about the problem without anger and dissatisfaction boiling in your heart.
- Acknowledge that it hurt
No good ever came out of sweeping a hurt under the mat, or pretending it did not hurt. We must not, dare not, do that.
- Acknowledge that it was wrong
Even good things hurt sometimes. The only way to decide whether the Wider Watcher was truly in the wrong is to measure up against a standard. Mine is the Bible. If what they did was wrong we need to acknowledge that. We also, I believe, need to acknowledge that evil also exists within ourselves (whether or not it has arisen in this situation).
- Decide who was injured the most
In painful situations often everyone involved is injured to some degree, whether through sinning or being sinned against. At the same time, if it is possible to say who was injured the most, this can help us walk towards a resolution. If the answer to this question is:
You – it is your hand that must extend forgiveness and restoration, and we must seek Jesus’ help to do so
Your Loved One – it is their hand which must extend. Perhaps they have no desire to lay aside their hurt and anger. What then can we do? We want to confront the Wider Watcher, make them pay, to fix our Loved One’s pain. And yet, that is not for us to do. All we can do is labour to point them towards Jesus (the One who alone can give us hearts which forgive) with our words and actions. This is so, so hard.
The Wider Watcher – I think this perhaps the only situation which allows for confrontation between us and the Wider Watcher. How can we point them towards Jesus? Perhaps this involves explaining their guilt, maybe not.
- 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?
Us. The answer is always us. We can forgive. Whether we were the most injured or not. I’m not saying this is easy. It’s extremely difficult. Because 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 (forcing the consequences, the hurt, the pain onto the perpetrator) and instead allow the hurt both to exist and end in us.
This is hard. There’s a huge temptation towards bitterness. True forgiveness is only possible with Jesus. Why? Because in Him we have the assurance that one day He will judge. In Him we have the knowledge that He alone can turn hurt to peace. In Him we have the assurance that it is ultimately His words and actions that matter.
No one elses.
We will never respond perfectly. I didn’t back then when I overheard those hurtful words, and I don’t now. Yet my prayer is that we Watchers will seize every painful opportunity to turn to Jesus. To 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?