Suffering: Why do people give me unsolicited advice?

If you have ever lived with a chronic illness, chances are someone has tried to tell you some easy cure: Just try yoga! Just try thinking more positively! Just pray harder! Just eat vegan!

 

These “remedies” have well intention, and even some of them could have merit. But if there was an easy fix to your suffering, well, you would not be suffering right now!

Not only that, but the unwanted advice can also carry the false notion that you are responsible for your suffering. You are the reason you are suffering. That the suffering shows who you are as a person, and who you are as a person is why you are suffering. These are all wrong!

Who you are as a person does not determine your level of suffering. You can’t be intelligent enough, moral enough, hard-working enough, wise enough, or spiritual enough to be exempt from suffering. Nobody is exempt from suffering and suffering is not your fault.

Someone advises a suffering person to work harder or be more spiritual or try some remedy. But when the suffering is not cured after listening to this “advice” the suffering person is then called things like “attention-seeker” “over-reactor” “ridiculous” “lazy.”

But this tells us more about the “advice”-giving person than the suffering person.

These people like to think that their intelligence/morality/wisdom/spirituality is superior enough to get them out of suffering.

Most of the time, this comes from a hidden fear. They are secretly terrified of suffering and they like to think that if they were ever in that situation, they could easily get out of it because of their intelligence/hard work/spirituality.

But suffering does not determine who you are as a person. And who you are as a person does not determine your suffering.

You could be the most intelligent, most wise, most hard-working, most spiritual person in the world and still be subject to suffering. Because suffering is not your fault!

Of course, there are a few times when people suffer because of an unwise decision. But for chronic illnesses, poverty, addiction, mental illnesses, homelessness, and other suffering, it is not your fault and there is no easy way out! It can happen to anyone. And usually the only way to learn this is to go through the suffering yourself. For those prideful enough to think they could easily cure suffering, suffering will be a big slap of humility.

If you are suffering, please know that it is not because you are not smart enough or spiritual enough or good enough. You are more than enough! Your suffering has nothing to do with you as a person.

Remember that even Jesus, the most wise, most caring, most perfect person, suffered: “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44 NIV). It’s okay to be in anguish over your suffering! Do you think anyone came up to Jesus when he was in anguish and said, “Just try more yoga!” No! Instead, Jesus was with his friends, who were “exhausted from sorrow” (Luke 22:45). They were weeping with him, just as Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (ESV).

It is great to help people who are suffering, but getting angry at them when your “advice” does not cure them does not help!

The best way to help people who are suffering is to be with them in their suffering journey! Show them compassion, understanding, listening, patience, and kindness. Weep with them. Knowing they are not alone and that somebody cares for them will bring so much more healing than unsolicited advice or expectations.

-Kiki
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