If you’re anything like me (terror at the thought!) sometimes it’s hard to know what to say in a difficult situation. Job’s friends did their best work when they sat silently for a week (Job 2:11-13). By the time Job 16:2 rolls around, they’ve long since opened their mouths and become “miserable comforters.”

Certainly there is a time to speak and a time for silence. Wisdom is knowing which is which!

Alan Wolfelt wrote a book: The Handbook for Companioning the Mourner. He suggests that we take an attitude of companionship rather than feeling the need to offer counsel. Here are his principles for your consideration:

  • Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
  • Companioning is about curiosity; it is not about expertise.
  • Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
  • Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading.
  • Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
  • Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling every painful moment with words.
  • Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
  • Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about directing those struggles.
  • Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
  • Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
  • Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.

We say it often—because it’s true—sometimes the most important thing is just being there.

(See Richard Beck’s blog for a fuller discussion.)