Listening Is Often The Only Thing Needed To Help A Person Going Through Prolonged Pain And Suffering…

Why is it that when we are going through great pain and suffering and choose to confide that in someone, that they often feel the need to give advice, provide guidance, and offer suggestions, instead of just listening?

Having gone through intense bouts of pain and suffering for years now, I’ve been on the receiving end of countless pieces of unsolicited advice, guidance, and suggestions. Regrettably, up until recently, I did the same with most who confided their trials and tribulations with me, always believing I was doing the right thing, that is until I realized not too long ago, due to how long I’ve personally been in pain and suffering, that people who share their sorrows and burdens in life with another are really only looking for one thing, an ear to listen. Yet, for whatever the reason, many of them tend to do the exact opposite of listening. The following is a top 10 list of the things that I, and plenty of others have experienced when sharing our pain and suffering with another, each of which has often made it worse for us than better…

  1. Telling the sufferer that there are people out there going through greater pain and suffering than we are.
  2. Telling the sufferer that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional (especially when they aren’t suffering in the same way, not suffering at all at the present time, or never suffered in the way we have).
  3. Telling the sufferer that some doctor, practitioner, healing modality, medicine, guru, guide, healer, class, book, etc. will help (especially when they don’t even know all that we’ve tried already). This often comes via a sentence that starts out with “Have you tried…”
  4. Telling the sufferer that maybe they’ve wronged God somehow and this is some sort of punishment, or that they haven’t done enough spiritual work yet to heal it, or haven’t prayed hard enough, or that their sin is preventing themselves from getting through it, or that their faith/beliefs need to be stronger.
  5. Telling the sufferer that it’s all in their mind and they just need more will power to overcome it.
  6. Telling the sufferer random clichés like “Everything happens for a reason!”, “Everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end!”, or “Acceptance is the answer to all our problems today…”
  7. Telling the sufferer that things will be much better if they just get out and help another suffering individual (especially when the person may already be doing that or has limitations that prevent them from doing that).
  8. Telling the sufferer that maybe it’s their karma to work out and they just need to see it through.
  9. Telling the sufferer that they just need to not talk about it, get over it, and pretend it’s not there.
  10. Telling the sufferer, “You just have to keep the faith…”, that God has a reason and a plan for our pain and suffering that’s beyond our understanding, and that the other side of this will be better than anything we could ever imagine (especially when not knowing the person’s spiritual background, level of faith, or belief system).

I’m sure there is plenty more I could list here that have been quite challenging for each of us who’ve been on the receiving end of unsolicited advice, guidance, and suggestions after sharing our pain and suffering with another. The fact is, what we truly need the most is just a hand to hold, an ear to listen and a heart to understand us, as healing often begins to happen the moment we feel heard.

So, please remember this the next time someone opens their heart and shares a little of the pain and suffering their going through with you.


And…if you do anything else, show a token of affection such as a hug, an arm around them, or holding their hand. While this may feel uncomfortable to you, know it’s only your ego that really is feeling that way. Because offering your own guidance, advice, or suggestions to any of what they share with you, especially when unsolicited, is more to feed your own ego than to help ease any of the pain and suffering they are going through…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson