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What To Do When Your Best Friend Is In Crisis

Updated on January 24, 2016

Thousands of people can recite the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” People recognize the words, but how many actually try to live the prayer to relieve stress in their lives?

Imagine this: you are having lunch with your best friend. You are excited about your new job, or a new love, and your children are doing amazing in school. Your life is as close to perfect as it can be. As you pause to take a breath, your friend starts to cry. What do you do now?

Hold her close as she cries and wait until she is able to talk. When she can, ask gently if she wants to talk or if there is something else you can do. If she is ready to talk, stay quiet and really listen to her. Keep your comments and suggestions to yourself until she is ready to hear them. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is hold someone and let them cry. Maybe all she needs is to vent to someone who will not try to fix anything.

When she is ready, ask questions to be sure you understand the problem. The truth is there may be absolutely nothing you can do but be there and listen to her. Some issues cannot be changed such as an illness, money or marriage problems, or a job loss. Do not interrupt with your ideas until she is done talking. When you are thinking about what you want to say, your mind is occupied and you are not truly listening to her. If she asks your opinion, be honest, but realize that she may not be ready to take any advice. She may still be at the point of talking about the problem in order to get it straight in her own mind.

Parents are especially sensitive to problems with their children. Many have feelings of guilt or inadequacy because they think they must have done something wrong. Others are angry. Some feel their child is being unjustly accused or picked on and only want to hear sympathy and agreement with their feelings. To avoid making the situation worse, all you may be able to say is “I am sorry you have to deal with this” and offer understanding and support. As hard as it may be, do not say you have never had a problem like that with your child. While maybe you haven’t, hearing you say that will sound to her like you are the better parent and she will probably get angry. You could say you have no idea what you would do in the same situation and sympathize with her. When she is ready to talk about how the problem started you can ask more questions and offer advice.

If your friend is going through marriage problems, never say anything negative about her partner. Even if you know he is not good for her! If they would happen to reconcile, the words you said against him could come between you. She has to realize on her own that she is not happy and wants away from him. All you can do is offer a listening ear and a hug!

The best thing you can do to help a friend through a crisis is to listen and support her. Be ready with the tissues and hugs. Offer to bring food to her or to stay with her children while she takes care of her problems. Send a card or a text to remind her that God is listening and that you are ready to help in any way you can. Your love and support will be what she remembers, not whether you fixed the problem for her.

Serenity is not an easy word to define. Some feel it is a peaceful mind. Others believe it is a quiet heart. Or it may be a calm moment in a hectic day. Serenity is all of those and more. It is the belief that God is in control of our lives, even when the world seems to be going crazy around us. It is the ability to understand there are some situations in life that simply cannot be changed, no matter how much struggle is put forth. Struggling against issues that cannot change only brings more anxiety and stress into your life. Letting go of these situations brings peace. True serenity comes when you can be angry at life, but still take a deep breath and know that sometimes there is nothing you can do to change the problem. Everyone needs to learn to accept what cannot be changed and accept these issues with a peaceful mind and heart.

True wisdom comes from experience and the faith that God knows what is best. We may not always agree with his choices, but since his plan is hidden, the most we can hope for is to learn when to fight a problem and when to step back. Learning this can be extremely hard. It comes from listening to the advice of others, but also following your own instincts on the matter. Wisdom happens when a person takes the time to think through a problem, but does not over-think it.

Start each morning by reciting the prayer to yourself. Really listen to the words and try to let go of situations that cannot be controlled. Understand that God has a plan that we do not know and that agonizing over difficult times will only make them seem worse. Try to breathe deeply and let God work his miracles. Living this prayer can be hard, but letting go and accepting life’s problems can bring happiness and health to anyone who learns to live these words.

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      Kathleen Kerswig 21 months ago

      Thank you for sharing these ideas surrounding the principles of the Serenity Prayer. Many people use that prayer, myself included, to get grounded to take rightful action. The most important thing, as you pointed out, is to listen to what our friends need to say. I call it active listening. I stop worrying about what I'm going to say and I simply listen. I'll know what to say when the timing is right as long as I'm giving my friend my utmost attention.

      I'm so glad you wrote about this topic. Good job! Blessings!