What to Do, and Not Do, When Someone Is In Crisis

If you have ever experienced a health crisis, or other type of life crisis, you know the words and actions of others can help or harm. So with that in mind, here are some things to remember as you respond to others in crisis:

Don’t be an armchair diagnostician

It’s amazing how many people with no medical training, but a quick trigger finger to Google, can immediately diagnosis and suggest treatment. I wonder why we even need medical school anymore with all the armchair doctors and diagnosticians out there! Even if you research someone’s condition, realize you don’t have all the facts, aren’t a trained professional, and it’s not your responsibility to pass on your findings. What may feel like helping to you only adds pressure and stress to the recipient of your good intentions.

Don’t compare your past experiences to theirs

Often people have a tendency to haul out their own story of a crisis and compare and contrast to your situation. As you interact with others in crisis, resist the urge to inject your own experience into the conversation. While it may make you feel a sense of camaraderie with people in crisis, it may make them feel you are downplaying their situation. What they are experiencing is intense and real. Don’t negate that with comparisons.

Don’t ask for, or spread, information that isn’t yours to share

This point should be emphasized with neon flashing lights! Some people feel it’s their duty to get the latest updates on a crisis situation and pass on the information. Please don’t. Like the childhood game of whispering a phrase around the circle, the message gets distorted, and in many cases, enhanced as it travels. Think about it from the perspective of those in crisis. Would you want inaccurate details of your situation leaping around town, and beyond, like wildfire?

Don’t post a “prayer request” on social media on their behalf

This point piggybacks on the previous one. In many cases, “prayer request” is synonymous with gossip. Don’t assume it is helpful to take someone’s crisis to social media in the thinly veiled form of a prayer request. Many who do this just want to feel the power of having and disseminating information.

Don’t Say Stupid Stuff

When someone is in crisis, the last thing they need is thoughtless words, yet that is often what they hear. Temper what you say. Think before you speak. Don’t spout clich├ęs or platitudes. Don’t joke, as some do when ill-at-ease and at a loss for something to say. It’s better to say very little than something stupid and hurtful.

Do Express Concern

Often, in a crisis situation, friends and family members disappear. The reasons vary, but may include not knowing what to do or say, feeling inadequate, or an unwillingness to support with their time or effort. Even if you feel ill-equipped, take time to express your concern. It can be as simple as a thinking-of-you note or a text message that says “I’m sorry you’re going through this,” “I love you,” or “I’m praying for you.”

Do Offer Practical Support

Life rolls on despite crises. Certain aspects of everyday life still have to happen. Help by offering to transport those who can’t drive, babysit, provide meals, or do laundry. Little things of a practical nature go a long way in a crisis situation.

Do Understand a Slow Response to Inquiries

When someone has spent the day in a hospital waiting room or at a bedside, responding to requests for updates isn’t what they want to do once they are “off duty.” Understand the physical, mental, and emotional fatigue that accompany crisis situations and be patient when updates are slow in coming. The delay could mean no additional news or total exhaustion.

Do Pray

Prayer is a powerful tool many ignore. Prayer moves your concerns, your impossible situations, off your shoulders and into the hands of God. Who better to work out the intricate details of complicated situations than our Heavenly Father? Place your burdens in his care. Trust. Watch for answers and miracles. And don’t forget to thank Him for answered prayer.

“I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking to me about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!” Isaiah 65:24 TLB

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