They say: Write what you know. Lately, I know breakups.
In my last post I mentioned five things that helped me get over a breakup. One of those things was being with friends. Talking to my friends was, for the most part, really helpful in working through my emotions. After the breakup, my heart was sensitive to what stung and what brought comfort. So I took note of those feelings, hoping to return the favor when my friends find themselves in a similar situation. Maybe you will find some valuable insights here, too.
1. Listen well.
When my friends talked with me, they were not distracted by their phones, the people around us or the television in the restaurant. They kept their attention on me and I knew they were listening. They waited until I was done talking. They asked questions to understand better. The appropriateness of their questions let me know they were listening well. They didn’t interrupt unless they wanted clarification. When outside factors interrupted us, they made a point to get back to my story. These thoughtful actions fed my starving soul.
2. Sympathize and/or empathize.
Sympathy is when you show you are sad for someone else’s pain. It was done well for me when a friend sincerely said something like, “I’m sorry. That’s really tough.” This let me know he heard my pain and was sad about it.
But empathy is when you show a friend you have personally felt a pain similar to theirs. One friend told me about his breakup, which definitely had some similarities to mine. He could have made it all about himself, but instead he did it well by emphasizing the parts that were specifically meant to give me hope or understanding. It was comforting to hear he personally knew what the pain felt like. I was not alone in this.
So if you’ve felt some of the same things your friend is feeling, let him or her know, and if they ask, tell about it in a way that provides insight. That said, if you’re tempted to use the opportunity to merely reopen your old wounds and become self-focused, don’t go there. Breakup one-upmanship isn’t helpful for healing.
3. Give careful advice.
One of my long-time friends has earned the right to speak truth into my life. It was when my heart was looking for the “whys” about the breakup, and how to do better in the future, that she pointed out a recurring issue she’s seen in my life. We need to be very careful, because this kind of response can easily prompt a head-beating regret session. But if done with compassion and a future focus, it can really speak transformation into a friend’s life at a pivotal time. At least it did for me.
Of course, some truths can be hard to hear, so preface it with, “I want to tell you this because I care for you and I think maybe it could really help in the long run.” But be very, very tender. This person has presented their bare and fragile heart to you, and they trust you to care for it. So above all, if you suggest something, make sure they know it is because you love them and believe in God’s plan for them.
4. Help break the idol.
A few years ago, a friend was having a lot of trouble getting over his ex. Then one day he saw her at church and she snubbed him — ignored him in a way that seemed rude. And he was like, “Wait! She’s not as perfect as I thought she was!” That day was the turning point for him.
Not that you have to make a bad guy out of the breaker-upper, but sometimes we mistakenly idolize them. Reminding the brokenhearted that the other person is a flawed, growing human can help. Pointing out how they didn’t treat your friend as your friend deserved, or maybe are still immature in some areas, can bring that person back down to reality.
This can also be an opportunity to encourage your friend in healthy habits of letting go. Help your friend move out of the ex’s sphere by assisting them in taking a social media break, deciding not to go to the same parties for a while, and holding them accountable in stopping communication and choosing to focus on other things. In place of that void, invite them into increased Christian community alongside you. Make sure they know they have a safe place to land among other compassionate Christian friends.
5. Point them to truth.
It’s easy to ask, “Am I good enough?” after a breakup. This is a great time to remind your friend of where their true worth comes from. You can encourage them with your words, Scripture, or songs which reinforce this. Remind them of truth regarding their identity, their future, their purpose…all the things that are most true about them. Remind them that they are so much more than a relationship, and that God has good things in store for them. Feed them with truth, joy and beauty, and in time, you’ll see them turn a corner.
Breakups can be hard and sad. But we can show Christ’s love to our friends in how we respond. Sometimes it’s hard to find ways to love on our friends like Christ did, but this is one of them. Let’s take advantage of it.