You will never actually understand what they’re walking through.
? You may understand pain.
? You may understand loss.
? You may understand hardship.
? You may understand disappointment.
But all of these are from your own point of view and your own life experiences.
You will never truly and fully understand what the other person is walking through, because you aren’t them.
? walked in their shoes.
? had their life experiences.
? thought their thoughts.
? grown up in their family.
? seen life through their eyes.
? filtered things through their triggers.
It’s a beautiful thought to want to empathize with someone and express to them that you’re with them, that you care, and that you’re trying to share their heartache ?
But be thoughtful how you present it to them, because if someone’s walking through something and you say “I get it.” or “I understand.” it can immediately (subconsciously) discount what they’re experiencing, and it turns the attention back onto you (vs. keeping it on supporting them).
Here are a few different approaches to this and ways to express empathy, without being fake or unintentionally misleading:
? Oh gosh. I can hear the emotion in your voice, and want you to know I’m here to support.
? That sounds like it’s really weighing on you right now. You’re not alone as you walk through this.
? I can appreciate that you’re experiencing these emotions, and I’d be happy to pray with you if you’d like.
? I won’t pretend to know how you’re feeling, because I haven’t walked through what you’re walking through. But I do know what it’s like to feel (insert emotion they’re expressing here), and I believe you’ll come through it, even with how it feels right now.
We don’t have to pretend that we get it when we don’t. And if you have walked through something similar, still remember that you haven’t actually walked through what they’ve walked through (even if it’s literally the same kind of thing – losing a child, a parent, a business, a relationship, etc.), because you’re not them.
Be intentional and thoughtful with your words.
What we say in these circumstances can have so much more impact than perhaps we recognize (and they may not be received through a totally clean filter – especially when heightened emotions are involved), so I’ll encourage you to be more delicate and tactful and gracious ?