It happens all the time. You’re talking with a friend. They share a struggle from their life. On the outside you’re composed, but on the inside, you’re anxious and uncertain. The truth is, you don’t know what to say. In moments like this, practice loving wisdom and simply listen. If you want to go beyond that, here are four guidelines for having conversations that heal.
Hear their Story. Everyone needs to name their hurts and unfold the painful narrative of what they’re experienced or had to tragically endure. If it is the only thing you do, providing a safe place for your friend to share his hurts or tell his story is in itself healing.
Enter their Suffering. Don’t back away, give advice, or quote the Bible at them. Don’t retreat from your friend’s anguish or nervously change the subject. Instead, enter into it with them, and with respectful curiosity, invite them to share more.
Acknowledge their Struggle. Speak to what you hear. Acknowledge how difficult it must be to walk in their shoes, and then affirm their courage to struggle well.
Lead them to Safety. Ask “Would it be okay if we prayed?” If they give their consent, lead them in a brief prayer that will carry them to the safest place on earth, to arms that never forsake.
Just remember the acronym (H.E.A.L.). It is a tool I created to promote healing conversations with hurting people. You can compress this process into a five-minute conversation, expand it into a two-hour meeting, or turn it into a weekend retreat.
If you want to learn more about H.E.A.L., let me hear from you.