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Published on May 24th, 2016 | by Discussion Questions

How can I show sympathy to others?





ANONYMOUS WRITES: I have friends who are going through a really hard time. I want to be a godly encouragement and show genuine sympathy, but I find myself often not knowing what to say. When a close family member died a few years ago, I remember that many people said the wrong thing to us, hurting instead of helping. I don’t want to do that. I know every situation is different, but what are some principles of showing kind, Christian sympathy?


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  • Olivia R.

    Often, it is hard to find the right words to say, so I believe that sometimes the best kind of sympathy doesn’t involve words, but rather, actions. I think just listening to someone talk about their problems is a good way of showing sympathy. Another way to silently show sympathy is just to be there for them in their time of need. Also, a comforting hug can speak a thousand comforting and reassuring words. Sometimes, we all just need a hug from someone we care about. :)
    This is what I have to say on the subject and I am really excited to see what others will say. :)

    • I know this works for me. So I agree! :)

  • Haven Asnip

    I totally agree with everything @harpistforhim:disqus said especially the hug part. I told my Momma the other day that I needed a shirt that said ‘I RUN ON HUGS’! Like the saying, ‘actions speak louder than words’ I think it’s ok to not know what to say. When I’m going through a rough spot I don’t necessarily need advice, I really just want someone to listen to me. The worst thing you can do is just not do anything, because that comes off as if you don’t really care. I lost my brother a couple of years ago and when people didn’t do anything it made us feel like we weren’t important to them or that my brother wasn’t important, which was very hurtful. Depending on the situation bringing a meal can be a huge blessing and paying attention to food allergies and personal preferences can also make it more meaningful. If you’re like me and you have a hard time putting things you would like to say into words just sending a simple note can be very touching as well. Maybe putting a bible verse or lyrics from a special hymn inside can be encouraging.

  • Sometimes the best things you can do is 1: Pray for them daily. 2: Offer encouragement reminding them that our Lord will never leave nor forsake us. 3: Listen, if they wish to talk about it, let them talk, cry even rant a little, just getting it out there often times helps. And lastly 4:Pray that God will help you to help them in someway, whatever that way may be. Even though I don’t know your name or your friend’s name I want you to know I’ll be praying for both of you. : ) God bless, Tatiana.

  • Josh A.

    I just went through the loss of my grandfather about a month ago, and what really helped during that time was when people just acted normal and hung out with me, prayed with me, and recognized that while yes that was a trying time, life kept going on and they helped me see that as well.

    • Musical Ragamuffin

      So true Josh.

      • Musical Ragamuffin

        Caveat to my statement above. Most of the time I want people to act normal is for small things like getting hurt. And the reason I want people to treat me normal is because I like to keep things impersonal; I don’t want to admit weakness. On the other hand, I have this pride in “What happened to me.” So I go over board on both sides. And I am so sorry about your loss. My grandpa died a few years ago, but I lost both of my grandfathers because of their lifestyles, and from that perspective of “losing” my grandfathers, I know it’s hard. Harder than it may seem.

  • Bekah14

    Anonymous, Its hard when someone whose close to you is hurting its hard to find the right thing to say, you want to say something that will take away the hurt, the tears and the grief, but only God can heal their hurt and mend their heart. But that doesn’t mean we cant show them we are their for them and sometimes even the little things are a big comfort to them. Here are some tips to help your friend through their tough time right now.
    P.S. I am praying for you that God will lead you to find the right words and that He will be a crutch for your friend to lean on. :)

    1. Pray for them
    2. Be yourself around them don’t be shy or hesitant
    3. Let them know that your there for them and if they want to talk about it
    4. Sometimes even just saying nothing and sitting with them and letting them know you are there for them is a big help

    I hope this helps and God bless!

  • tmselden

    I think the less you say is best. Just extend your condolences in a short statement and let them talk. Also, acts of kindness such as a meal or two. Also helping with household chores either in or out. Taking someone out, if they are ready for coffee, tea or a meal to distract them from their grief can help. Don’t wait to be asked to help.. People deeply grieving have a very hard time putting their lives back in a new order. Sometimes we need to be their temporary brains to help them make new steps. When they are ready, pray with them. Also, do not avoid speaking of the deceased. Share memories you might have with the loved one. Also, offer to be available at any time to help. God bless your heart and efforts. Remember “whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25b

  • Musical Ragamuffin

    I know my Mom says that with her losses, that she wanted to talk about it. I did to. Jason Gray has a really good song called “Not Right Now” about just sitting with the person in grief: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ullv_XN2d8M. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep,” Romans 12:15. I think that is some of the best advice.

    • Haven Asnip

      This is great Musical Ragamuffin! Thank you!

      • Musical Ragamuffin

        You’re welcome!

  • Faith

    Here’s an interesting video on sympathy vs. empathy, I hope you find it helpful as I did. :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

    • Haven Asnip

      This video was really helpful to me :) Thanks for sharing Faith!

  • Natalie Marie

    I think as of right now, everyone has said everything I wanted to say. But personally, I would do one or two things. (Or a combination of both)
    1. Pray
    2. Be a friend
    And what I mean by that, is pray for your friend and the situation that they find themselves in. (If you know what that situation entails). Now as to my second point, what I mean by being a friend is, be that listening ear for them. Whether its talking, venting, or just being there helps to.
    A lot of times, I find out that being willing to pray works just as well as knowing what to say, because then that person knows that they’re not walking in this alone.

  • Grace M.

    It doesn’t matter if you don’t know exactly how to phrase what you want to say; it can help someone so much just to know that you care. Something as simple as sending them a text letting them know you’re praying for them, and then actually following through, can mean so much to someone who’s hurting.

    The other thing is, don’t let fear of awkwardness keep you from showing sympathy. Awkward comfort will still show someone you care; ignoring the problem will not. Even if they don’t seem to want to talk, you might not realize how much they actually need you.

    In a nutshell: it doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be heartfelt.

    -Grace (trueandpure.wordpress.com)

  • Okie Gal

    I pretty much agree with everyone else, but here are a few things I don’t think any body’s mentioned yet (except for the praying part, which I only restated because they’re right):

    First, don’t over do it. When I’m struggling the last thing I want is for someone to come and get all sappy about it. Let them talk when they need to but don’t try to pry their heart open. Do whatever helps — even when that means you just talk about stupid things for a while.

    Pray and let them know you’re praying. A friend just messaged me “Praying for you guys today. Love you!” and it was like the most encouraging thing ever, so definitely do that. Also don’t forget to pray for yourself (ask for wisdom, humility, kindness, the guts to even get involved, ect.)

    They might just need some space, be open to that.

    Don’t draw attention to how comforting you are or what a great friend you are for trying to help them. They already have a lot to deal with, they don’t need to be guilt tripped too.

    And to a far lesser extent, chocolate helps everything.

    • Natalie Marie

      @Okie Gal that was exactly what I was trying to get at. Thanks for expanding and putting into words what I couldn’t.

  • M. Victoria

    I think being there for them when they need you. Like a lot of people have said words aren’t always the answer. I think it is important that you pray to Lord and ask him to lead you to do the right things. It could beanything like praying constantly for them, listening to them (sometimes people just need a good listener, cooking a dinner for them, sending flowers or going somewhere with them, and maybe it is a few words of comfort. Who knows!? It’s kinda hard until you get in that moment, but u think when you do the Lord will guide you towards the right approach.

  • Amanda Pitre

    To repeat what many people have already stated, being available is probably the biggest way you can help people. Just be a friend. Listen to their concerns. Remind them God’s truths, and to act on what they know, not necessarily on how they feel. Pray for them – and let them know it. If you truly mean it, offer that they can call you at any time, even if it’s 3 am (but only sat this if you truly mean it! ).
    When I struggled with suicide and depression, the biggest way I was helped and encouraged was simply by people being available to listen to me (even at 11pm) and to remind me about the truth of God and who He is.
    As I become more and more involved with counseling, I try to do the same. Listen to them – they really need to be able to say their thoughts and fears aloud, so that by saying them they will sometimes realize the things they need to hear by themselves. Don’t push people – don’t pry into their business if they don’t offer. Build your relationship – as they trust you more to keep the personal conversations private, they will open up more. Refer to someone else – if you do not feel capable or best suited to help them, help them find someone who you trust who would be better able to help. Give them space – when they need space or time alone, honor that.
    Basically, the Golden Rule. Show them love and treat them how you think they would want to be treated.

  • Just be there for them. Be a listening ear and a hug.

  • Audrey Dunn

    Everyone has said some really great things, and I just want to add– be a good listener. Don’t just passively listen to your friend as they tell you about their struggles; be an active listener. Show them you care by remembering things they’ve said, clarifying points they’ve made, and mostly just by listening to them. I have had a tough time lately with medical problems, and on hard days all I really wanted was someone to listen to me and to care. Listening is one thing, but caring while you listen is another. That, in my experience, has been one of the best ways to provide comfort– that and praying and hugs and being available, like everyone else has said! : )

  • Glenn Lahr

    I would avoid using Christian clichés like, “when God shuts a door He opens a window.” I also would not compare any experiences you have had to what they’re going through. To mirror what people are already saying, the best things you can do are to listen and care for them. You can also pray for them.

    • Linnea Rainbow

      Exactly. You could even tell them (I just went thru a rough time myself, and when my friend told me this, i cried) that you dont have the answers and that you know you cant fix the problem. But, tell them that no matter what, you will be there for them as whatever they need. A shoulder to cry on, a person to rant or yell at or even someone to just sit in silence with. I speak from experience when I say the latter things make a huge difference.

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