Let’s talk about the potty, shall we? There are three things the toilet tank should never be.
First, a photo gallery. Aunt Lois should never be staring at you as you exercise bladder management. Second. A beach. (sorry mom). Third, a theological library.
You know the books I’m talking about. They’re usually about 2×3 inches with padded covers. They’re usually targeted toward grandmothers and purchased in hospital gift shops. They have cutesy titles like “Pearls from Proverbs”- ok that’s an actual one passed down in our family.
Their intention is good. Their words are true. But oftentimes, they’re really not all that helpful. Why am I talking about this? This analogy came up talking to a friend today about the responses people give when you share real thoughts.
We’re all guilty of it. You ask someone how they’re doing or how they’re feeling. You don’t expect them to say anything but “everything’s good” or “fine.” If we’re being real, many times our brains have already moved to the next thing.
Once in a while, someone says something honest and you’re caught off guard. You complete a quick analysis of their honest moment and recoil with something like, “all things work together.” Or, “when God closes a door, He opens a window.”
True, yes. Encouraging, maybe. Helpful, not always. Sometimes the better answer is silence. Before Job’s friends went sideways with just about the worst advice in history, they sat silently with their friend. It was an incredibly smart move.
I know some foster and adoptive parents who’ve recently experienced difficult situations. I’m close with friends who are in a chapter of life with a lot of questions.
When people ask how we’re doing, or how our kids are, I often give a pat answer. Sometimes, it’s because I can’t disclose the answer to their question for various reasons. Other times, I know they don’t honestly care.
But when I blurt out a moment of reality, I almost instantly regret it. Usually, the response is something I’d find in a toilet tank book. A short, sound bite statement to tie up the situation with a bow and end the conversation.
Whether it’s our friends in a season of doubt, fellow fosters dealing with difficult circumstances or others that want to celebrate life’s high moments, there’s one thing in common: a desire for honestly and authenticity.
At times, the best support means leaving the pithy statements to rest in the little pastel books. Let your friends know you’re ready to walk with them through their questions, their doubts and their hard days. Celebrate the mountaintop moments and joys and milestones.
Let them share freely, without redirection, without a pearly closing statement. Embrace the authenticity of their struggle. Listen. Don’t feel compelled to dump advice. You’ll find a friendship closer that some of your family members.
Oh, the best thing to adorn the top of that toilet tank? Little rolls of paper.