Oftentimes when our friends and family members are going through a hard time, we try our best to support and encourage them, but we don’t always go about it in the best way. In this video, certified counselor and Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lilly Park, explains five of the most common mistakes we can make when trying to counsel others.
The entire video is above, and the complete transcript is below.
There are some common mistakes that we make when we’re trying to help loved ones, such as our friends and families and church members. There’s several, but here are just a few.
1. Good Intentions
I think one is we have good intentions. We are quick to say something or something that was helpful for us personally, but it really isn’t helpful to that person.
The first things I’d say is, good intentions are helpful sometimes, but it’s not always enough. It’s okay if you don’t know what to say. You can always say, “I’m sorry, I’ll be praying for you.” Give it time to share something that is timely and biblical when it’s appropriate.
2. Hearing Without Listening
Second is that we can hear, but not listen. What I mean is that we can get so familiar with certain problems.
Let’s say I met with several women who had miscarriages. What I can do is get familiar to the point of giving the same response to all five women. It’s a cut and paste approach. That can be really hurtful because each woman will struggle differently with their miscarriage—or anxiety, depression, or a brother in Christ who lost his job. Each person is unique in how they experience that same problem.
I would say listen and try to remove those preplanned words and distractions and try to be there with that person so that you can give more thoughtful and loving responses.
3. Address the Body & Soul
The third one is that God has created all of us with a body and a soul. Some of us lean more towards addressing the physical components and that’s important. We want medical attention if that’s needed. We want to exercise, eat well, those things. But we also want to care for the soul. Yet some of us can overly focus on the soul and just say, “Well, you just need to pray. You just need to read the Bible.” But it’s both.
It’s complex. God doesn’t tell us where a problem becomes physical and spiritual. We don’t have to know that necessarily. But we should be good stewards in helping people think holistically about their problems.
I think of Proverbs 17:22 where it says, “A joyful heart is like good medicine.” Having the right words from God’s wisdom can bring a sense of healing if you can imagine.
For example, you had a really hard experience and you’re not feeling well. You’re really discouraged. You’re not sleeping well. But it can also bring about stress in your body because you’re thinking so much about it. So that’s a simple illustration that the body and soul are interrelated.
4. Be There Physically
The next point I’d say is that we are relational beings. None of us are created to be alone, no matter how much we know or we think we know about the Bible and the answers to this life. The point is that we need each other. I have benefitted greatly from godly men and women who have spoken truth into my life and who have made time to be there for me. We don’t have to be experts to love someone, but again, as I mentioned earlier, just being there physically can speak volumes.
I would also say, don’t forget the local church. It’s very tempting to be isolating ourselves when we are struggling with a problem in our lives. Make sure that we help them to meet with someone, a godly person, to keep them accountable, to help them to walk through this problem with them.
5. Our Hope is in Christ
And lastly, I would say—and this is very important—is never forget that our hope is in the gospel of Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean God will just remove that hard trial no matter how much you pray about it, but God will give us the grace and strength to endure it and to conform us more to the image of Christ.
So there are many more things I could share here, but these are just a few I believe are common mistakes when we help each other.