Doing the opposite

January 21, 2014

Well, maybe not quite the opposite, but close.

I read the David Brooks column on being “present” when people are grieving or in other difficult situations.  Part of the advice was not to pull in comparisons to one’s own travails.  Some commenters said this is not a hard and fast rule, as they actually found such comparisons helpful.  I suspect the attitude with which the comparisons are made is important —  it can mean the difference between making the conversation shift to a focus on the interlocutor (or using a comparison to shut down the conversation), and trying to put one’s emotional finger on the right understanding of what the other person is going through so as to be able to acknowledge the bereaved’s experience adequately.

But what’s interesting to me is how many of the comments sort of make comparisons.  I thought of doing something similar myself, but it struck me as flying in the face of the point of the column, and so I didn’t.

I just complimented the column instead.  I thought it was “spot-on and well-articulated,” worthy of being kept with emergency supplies for future reference when needed.

Of course, advising people on what is helpful is a different task from making sure people who need presence at a time of mourning or difficulty have it, but he’s a columnist, not Florence Nightingale.


2 Responses to “Doing the opposite”

  1. James Koppel Says:

    The traditional scenario in Judaism: The mourners sit on the ground or low seats (often milk crates) and the visitors pass by in succession and say: “May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.” Which, of course, is all Jews.

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