“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Luke 5:31
The more I study scripture and specifically the life of Jesus, I find that Jesus spent time with all people, regardless of their status in society, level of education, abilities or disabilities, age, or color of skin. So, as a disciple striving to become more like Christ every day, I desire that my life would parallel the same.
Yet, even as a person who faces multiple disabilities personally, I find that it can be tough to know how to approach others who are fighting battles such as physical limitations, mental or emotional illness. We don’t want to necessarily ignore them, although we fear saying or doing the wrong thing.
Still, Dr. Suess says it best. “Every person is a person, no matter how small” and we are all “created in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27).
Therefore, today we are going to look further into how we can care for even the most challenging people in our lives using the acronym “L.O.V.E. W.E.L.L.”.
L stands for “Listen closely”. Too often, the other people’s words get lost because we are entirely focused on our response or the thousands of other strings (or devices) pulling for our attention. However, you will be amazed how much easier communication becomes and the problems able to be resolved when you make the person in front of you the priority. It is imperative in our listening that we have an open mind and seek to understand, rather than merely judging, defending, denying, withdrawing, or planning our counterattack.
O stands for “Ownership”. For any and every problem involving more than one person, there is a minimum of 50% that each person is responsible for. So, it is not all your fault. Again, I say, IT IS NOT ALL YOUR FAULT. Therefore, you must not accept all the blame. This may sound harsh, especially when our hearts are to love, right? I believed this lie for years and fell into the guilt/shame trap with “I am sorry” spilling out of my mouth each time conflict or tension arose. But, you can indeed love the person without enabling by making excuses for them or accepting all responsibility. It is important that each person understands that all of our choices have consequences. That is truly loving them best.
V stands for “Validate emotions”. Especially for those with mental/emotional illness, feelings are the focus and perceived as fact. So, logical versus illogical thinking can get kind of messy. Therefore, it is important you show that you are hearing what they are saying. Do not mistake validation for absorbing their emotions like a sponge or negating your own. You also don’t have to agree with the emotion or understand their experience. There are countless examples throughout scripture where Jesus demonstrates this. Still, for the other person, this step shows you really do care. It could look something like this…
Self: “How do you feel about __________________?Friend: I feel ____________________________. Self: “How frustrating! I can see how you would feel that way.” OR “That must be really hard. I’m here for you.”
E stands for “Empower”. As I said with “ownership”, it is crucial that you do not accept all responsibility, nor try to “fix” the person. Rather, you can be a source of encouragement in not letting their diagnosis define them and celebrating what they are able to do, even if it seems small. It also may be helpful to help them identify resources, such as a making phone calls to find medical equipment, a local support group, or counselor to meet with regularly. No matter what, you must place the decision ultimately in their hands. Even the best counselor/doctor/resource cannot help unless the person is willing to make a change or to “take up their mat and walk (John 5)” by doing their part.
W stands for “Wisdom”. Supporting our loved ones with high needs “emotionally/ mentally/ physically” can be incredibly rewarding on some days. Still, there will be other days when we will feel like we are being drug through a pit, or riding a merry-go-round and need a wise friend or two to ground us in reality. This friend outside of the situation is not intended to be a space for gossip. Although, their role can be speaking truth into and over us, even when we don’t believe it ourselves, and reminding us of our worth. We do not deserve to be treated badly, nor is it all our fault. Learning more about ourselves through personal counseling and role playing scenarios can also be helpful, too.
E stands for “Educate”. Every person with a diagnosis is unique. Although, by taking the time to research and understand the way your friend or family members’ body is having to compensate for organs not functioning properly, or the way their brain is processing information,you will be able to have more grace. You will also learn practical expectations, so you do not frustrate them with unrealistic goals. Rather, you can challenge them to grow, so they are able to reach their full potential. I cannot even begin to describe the joy it brings me when someone I love has taken time to research even one of my conditions. Even if they have questions, their effort expresses the truth “I matter” in a very tangible way.
L stands for Limits. Imagine setting out with supplies to build a garden one day. You walk miles to find the proper soil and plant flowers, blooming in every shade. A soft, dirt path winds through the middle with smooth stones lining it’s wake. It is so peaceful yet full of life, as butterflies and insects come from all around to find their place. Although after going to bed and waking the next morning, you are devastated to find the scattered remnants of your garden far and wide. Some things can be mended and replanted. Still, it will no longer be the same. Now think of this garden as your life. Without a gate or “limits”, we will find the same destruction process taking place. We need to be able to choose who will come into our garden and when, if we will take them to the secret parts, or if it is best for them to remain on the outside and just look in. Limits, or boundaries, seem to carry such a negative connotation, or thought of only in regards to romantic relationships. Still, they are necessary for even the most healthy of relationships. Dr. Brene Brown says, “Daring to set boundaries is about how to have courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” Even Jesus had times where He chose solitude over people and went away to spend time alone and in prayer. Our limits don’t have to be fancy, either. Although examples could be:
- “If you start throwing objects in rage, I will remove myself and call for help.”
- “I need 1 hour of quiet time to myself every day”.
Regardless of the amount or detail of your limits, they will be irrelevant unless you stay consistent. So, commit yourself to setting up the gate.
L stands for “Let Go and Live”. When it comes to relationships with others, we must realize, we cannot try harder. We are not God. We cannot fix it, nor control behavior. We must make the necessary choice to live our life.
This is not selfish, nor it does it mean we are giving up. Although, by listening closely, holding our loved one accountable through ownership, validating emotions, empowering, drawing on the wisdom of others, educating ourselves, and setting limits, we are truly doing our part.
And as it says in the book “Stop Walking on Egg Shells” by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger, “The best way to be there in the long run is to take care of yourself in the short run”. You see, we cannot love others well if we are trying to pour from an empty cup. So, we must take the necessary time and space to love and care for ourselves and place our dear one and their well-being in the hands of God for only He is “Jehovah Rapha”, The Healer.
I pray that this acronym will be helpful for you and your relationships. As always, I am here if you have any questions or prayer requests. Feel free to send via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, commenting below, or connecting on social media.
Much love, Alisha