The normal rule of thumb for knowing whether to say something or not is, “When in doubt, don’t.” But I would submit that there is another instance in which the opposite would be true, in which the rule should be, “When in doubt, do.”
That other instance is in the offering of encouragement. In being a friend.
One of the things I have learned from being so sick and in the hospital so much is to let people know that you care. Even if it feels awkward. Even if you don’t know how they’ll take it, or whether they’ll appreciate it.
For instance, when a good friend of mine got married almost two years ago, I wrote her a long letter saying how much her friendship meant to me, offering a few words of general advice about marriage, and letting her know that I’d always be there for her if possible. She told me later that no one had ever written her a letter like that, and that it meant the world to her.
It means so much to know that someone really, truly cares about you. Whether you’re dealing with a difficult trial, or entering a new stage of life, or just because – it is such a comfort and encouragement to hear that someone is praying for you.
Take this past weekend, for instance. Many of you know by now that my husband was in the hospital overnight with seizure-like activity. I was scared. I had no idea what was going on, why he was seizing, or what I was supposed to be doing about it all. But friend after friend told me they were praying, and adding our names to their church’s prayer lists, and offering to visit or bring meals or help any way we needed it. It meant the world to me! Just knowing that people were praying helped eased my burden of prayer, quieted my mind, and calmed my emotions. Some of the people who said they were praying barely know me, and don’t know my husband at all. Some of them I’ve never even met in real life. But they made a difference just by speaking (or writing) those words of encouragement.
It doesn’t have to be something long or elaborate. It doesn’t take many words to show you care. Just an “I’m praying for you today,” or “let me know if you need anything,” or “I’m here for you.” But if someone means a lot to you, tell them. If someone is on your mind, send them a note or an email (or even a message on facebook). If someone you know, however little or well, is going through a rough time, pray for them and let them know you did so. Let them know what you prayed, if you’re comfortable doing so.
We are to bear each other’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ, which is to love one another. We are to show our love for each other by our actions. We are to be friends with each other, to meet each other’s needs, to build each other up. What simpler way than by our words? What better way than by letting them know someone cares?
So the next time you think about saying something nice and encouraging to someone, do it! Don’t hesitate, or the burden will dissipate and the thought will flit away. Don’t ignore it or wait till a better time or place. You never know the effect your words will have.
When in doubt, say something!