One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another person’s pain without trying to “fix” it, to simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person’s mystery and misery. Standing there, we feel useless and powerless, which is exactly how a depressed person feels—and our unconscious need is to reassure ourselves that we are not like the sad soul before us.
In an effort to avoid those feelings, I give advice, which sets me, not you, free. If you take my advice, you may get well—and if you don’t get well, I did the best I could. If you fail to take my advice, there is nothing more I can do. Either way, I get relief by distancing myself from you, guilt free.
It’s so hard to to remember, and to be frank, to even accept, that sometimes the only thing more powerful than just right the words is just the right silence. The kind that bears with, not bears advice. Sometimes the greatest act of love you can show someone is to just sit and listen and then to only say seven words: “That sounds very hard. I’m so sorry.”