When friends, family, and loved ones are hurt and in pain – physical or emotional – we naturally want to help however we can. But when they are miles away – physically or emotionally – how can we help them then?
It can be tempting to share inspirational quotes, something to raise their mood or offer advice in a round about way. But that can be a mine field. I don’t know about you, but if I’m feeling down and someone sends me “If life gives you lemons make lemonade!” it just makes me want to punch them in the face.
And what about the perennial favourite, “This too shall pass.”? How patronising does that sound?
I used to hate that quote. I just found it so condescending. But that was because I only ever heard it in movies said to characters who were upset to make them think things would get better. They never told the whole story, and once I heard that it brought a whole new meaning to it.
The story goes like this:
A Persian king asked his wise men to create something that would give him hope in times of despair, but also keep him humble in times of triumph. The wise men thought for a while, and then came back to the king with a ring on which was etched the words “This too shall pass”.
You see, its not a quote about everything getting better all the time, it’s about the impermanence of things. How all there is is change, and how our attachment to things can only lead to emotional turmoil.
I find that a much deeper meaning than ‘everything’ll be alright eventually’, because even if things do get better they will also change once more. So much better to prepare ourselves for that, and thereby lessen the impact when it does inevitably happen.
But of course you can’t tell that to someone who is upset. That too can be patronising. In fact any ‘advice’ when someone is properly down can easily be taken the wrong way. Much better to be an ear for listening, a shoulder to cry on, and then one day (when things aren’t so bleak) plant the seed and hope it will grow. The rest is up to them.
And as for “If life gives you lemons…”, just remember:
If life gives you lemons, send that sh*t back and tell life,”Hey! What the hell is this? This isn’t what I ordered!”