A couple came in when one had just learned the other was having an affair. We talked, cried, and wondered if there was any hope for this marriage.
As we continued to talk, I realized they needed someone with more expertise than me.
After talking and listening for an hour or two, I gave my recommendation. I told them, “I’m a pretty good country doctor but I think you need heart surgery on your marriage. I’m not a cardiologist. I’m going to do what any good doctor would do. I’m referring you to a counselor I use and to whom I have referred many people.” I gave them Phil Pistole’s phone number.
After that, I thought of the analogy I’d used. When my father had bypass surgery, his general practitioner checked on him often while he was recovering from heart surgery. He wasn’t trained in cardiac surgery but he cared about my father.
Why shouldn’t I do the same thing with this couple? I told them I’d be checking with them during their counseling. I made “house calls” once a month during their time of recovery from this trauma.
Here are some things I learned from that experience that’s been a model for me.
- Realize I’ll never have all the answers to all the problems people have. This shouldn’t be hard to admit. No doctor knows about every illness. When he encounters a condition he doesn’t understand, he refers his patient to a specialist. For serious cases, he may suggest getting a second opinion.
- Continue to compile a list of people who can help me and others in all areas: Bible knowledge, physical challenges, emotional difficulties, financial advice, family issues with husbands, wives, children, in-laws, addictions, etc. I may need to ask for time to think and research someone who will help. Make a good referral to someone with proven expertise. Provide the phone number. Generally, it’s good for the person needing help to make the call. Give directions to the person and how much he or she charges. State how much help you or the church will provide if needed.
- Follow up, working with everyone involved. Make regular contact with your people. Pray for them, with them, and in private. Even though I don’t know how to deal with this issue, I still care and need to continue to communicate that to my friends.
I shouldn’t be ashamed to admit, “I don’t know.” The first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, NKJV). [tweetthis]I’ll never have all the answers to all the problems people have.[/tweetthis]
The combination of not knowing, helping someone find someone who can help, and continued concern is a good demonstration of compassion.