We welcome back Katie from our Marketing Team who, this week, has insight on a phrase we are all probably familiar with. Thank you Katie for your wisdom on this topic and taking the time to share!
I recognize that the title of this may seem harsh or even confusing, so let me elaborate. How often have you gone to someone during a time of struggle and the response you’ve been given was, “I understand”? If you’re like me, that statement is less reassuring than it is frustrating.
You may now be going back through past conversations, revisiting advice you’ve been given, or, if you’re being honest with yourself, remembering a time you used that phrase yourself. If this is you, stick with me. I promise I’m not pointing my finger in your face with the intention of telling you you’re wrong. I am, however, going to explain why you actually do not understand what another person is going through and why you should avoid using that phrase with others.
Take this scenario for example. If you’ve lost a loved one in the past, you know how much it hurts. You know how hard it is to grieve, but you also know that the Lord walks with you and never leaves your side. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Flash forward. You have a friend who loses a loved one and comes to you during her time of sadness. It’s so easy to want to reassure your friend that the Lord will deliver her from this dark time and the words “I understand” almost roll off your tongue.
But, my friend, I am here to tell you that what your friend does not need during this time is for someone to say “I understand” because at the end of the day, it’s not possible for you to fully understand what she’s experiencing. We are human and because we are human, we are all different. God created us so divinely different, so the way we grieve, the way we heal, and the way something affects us are all different. Although two people may walk through the same situation, the way the situation sits on their hearts will never be the same, and for that reason alone, the phrase “I understand” will never be a fitting response to anyone that comes to you with a life struggle or hurt.
If you’ve had that “aha” moment by now but are wondering practical ways to respond in these types of situations, keep reading. Like I mentioned previously, no person is the same. No situation is the same. Therefore, giving you 4 specific ways to respond could be helpful, but understand that there is no textbook response for every situation. Instead of giving you ways to respond, I want to leave you with some helpful tips to keep in mind when your first thought is to respond with “I understand”:
- Start by asking the Lord how He wants you to respond. God is a good God and will guide you through this conversation.
- Ask yourself: Do I truly understand? Really think on this one. Remember, each of us is different. Even if this person has walked through the same situation you have, we all experience things and respond differently.
- Rather than saying “I understand,” reassure this person that your ears are open. People don’t need to hear someone else say they understand because that can make the situation more about the helper and not about the person needing help.
- Have scripture handy. Deuteronomy 31:6 is a great one. Remind the person you’re helping that God is the only one who truly understands our heartaches and will be by our side the entire way.
Friends, please know that the purpose of sharing this isn’t to make you question how you’ve handled situations in the past or to make you feel bad for using this phrase. The message is to make you aware of your words and how even something as simple as “I understand” can potentially have the wrong effect on someone you love dearly. Remember, seek the Lord’s words rather than your own. He will equip you with what to say in the perfect time.