One of my favorite people in the Bible is Barnabas. He was known as "The Encourager." Wouldn't it be terrific to be known as "The Encourager"? Whether we are going through a divorce, a job loss, or struggling with a chronic illness, we do much better if we have a Barnabas - a support system. As we illustrated in last month's article, some of our supportive approaches are not as helpful as we might think. A friend of mine said we can encounter two types of people. She said there are the basement people who say things that discourage us and bring us down. Then there are the balcony people who listen to us, empathize, encourage, and lift our spirits. When we are dealing with a chronic illness, it is beneficial to be around positive people who allow us our feelings and do not put us down for feeling what we feel.
We need to remember that there is a difference between feeling something and believing something. This thought is illustrated by the following conversation. We tell a friend about someone we both know who is doing something that annoys us. Self-righteously, the friend says, "I like him." Then we have to explain that, just because we are annoyed by what he does, doesn't mean we don't like that person. The friend doesn't seem to understand that we were talking about a behavior that was bothering us, not what we believe about that person. So frustrating!
The point is to find someone who will allow us to express our feelings without judgment or making it into more than it is. Also, it is important to find a supportive person who allows us to have our opinions and allows us to change them. He doesn't lock us into what we thought a week ago. We are allowed to change our mind and opinion.
We need to remember that there is a difference
between feeling something and believing something.
I came across this list for helping us identify people who can be supportive: Who is the encourager in our life when we are struggling? Who is the person we turn to for laughter and closeness? Who listens to our dreams? Who listens without judgment or "shoulds"? Who will listen during our worst times? Who can we share our spiritual life with? Who do we go to when we are hurting? Who helps us to grow and learn? Who do we feel safest with? Who are the people or groups who pray for us regularly? Who will not abandon us when we are complaining?
When I asked myself who is this person for me, the answer was obvious. It is Karen, my wife. That person may be your partner as well. If not, we can seek someone such as a therapist or ministor, or turn to a supportive group of people who find themselves in our situation.
And we can always make an effort to be a Barnabus to others.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700
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