While walking back from John’s gravesite, one of my cousins
approached me to apologize for missing the church service. Earlier, she
had dropped her brother off at the airport and explained that she wanted
to send him off because “I’m not going to see him for a long time.”
This was literally minutes after burying my brother. Um, yeah, Cuz, I won’t be seeing my brother for a long time, too.
Back then, I felt flabbergasted, but as the years have passed, I
honestly smile at the blunder. (And, Cousin, if you’re reading, I love
you!) Why? Because it’s something we humans do. People are going to
blurt out awkward, inappropriate things when they’re nervous and
reaching for the right thing to say. It happens all the time.
Because we’ve all been there—me included—I always try to extend grace to
those who might “mess up” at first. This is offering empathy to those
who are trying to offer it to us.
If you feel like you’ve royally screwed up, first of all, remember:
You really haven’t. You said or did something to acknowledge and affirm
your friend. That, in itself, is huge.
So what should you do if you’ve run into a little caring snafu or said something untoward? Apologize. Say something like:
- “I’m so sorry. That came out wrong. What I meant was…” (Note: If rambling on and on about what you meant will get you into even more trouble, just say something like, “I just care about you and want you to know you’re not alone.”)
- “I’m such a dummy. That’s not what I meant. Please forgive me.”
- “I apologize. I’m not very good at knowing what to do, but I’m really good at knowing I care about you.”
- “I didn’t mean to say that. Let’s rewind: I love you. I’m here for you. I never want you to feel like you’re alone.”
- “Leave it to me to say something stupid. Please ignore that. I didn’t mean it. You really, truly mean so much to me.”
- “Ugh. I’m going to stop talking now. How about you talk and I’ll just listen.”
Because John died when I was 16 and I’m now a long, long way from
teen-dom, I’ve had a lot of time to ponder what it means to care. You
may be new at it or just needing some fresh ideas. However you use this
article, I hope you use it with love. I hope someone’s day is brighter
just because you care.