Being an RA (resident assistant) in college, my main roles were (1) making sure rules were being followed and (2) investing in the girls on my hall. There usually weren’t too many surprises or big struggles that came my way. We had a great set of girls on my hall.
But one night, I was doing bed checks and noticed that one girl wasn’t back yet. After searching the hall for her and asking around, one of her roommates let me know that this girl had gotten a call from her family. There had been a fire. And her younger brother didn’t make it.
All I wanted to do was find her and give her a big hug and sit with her. I wanted to see if she was okay. (Which, of course she wasn’t; her brother had just died.) I wanted to help. But when I did find her, she wasn’t ready to talk yet. At least, not to me.
I think one of the hardest challenges we face as encouragers or caregivers is knowing that a friend is hurting, but won’t talk to you about it. Perhaps it’s even more challenging when you know they are sharing with others–just not you.
Questions race through your mind:
- Why won’t they talk to me about it?
- Did I do something wrong?
- Do they not trust me?
- Am I not as close of a friend as I thought I was?
- Do they think I’ll overreact?
- Why do they talk to her, but not me?
How do we gracefully respond in these moments? How do we interact with them, knowing they may never choose to share their struggles with us?
One of the first things we need to do here is pray, because we need to address this issue in our hearts before anything else. It is so easy to plant a seed of bitterness or resentment in a circumstance like this, which could so easily destroy this relationship.
So take a walk or find a quiet place and tell God that it hurts. Tell Him why it hurts.
God, I don’t understand why she won’t talk to me about this. Did I do something wrong? I care about her so much. I wish I could help her.
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”1 Peter 5:7, NLT
Perhaps during your prayer time, God will reveal something that might be preventing your friend from confiding in you–in which case, you can seek to make amends.
However, there may not be anything specific about you that’s getting in the way. Keep praying about it until you feel God’s peace about it. It might come immediately or it might take a few days. Just lean into Him and keep talking to Him about it.
2. Be Thankful
I know it’s really hard to be thankful in a circumstance like this, but be grateful that they are at least talking to someone. There are many people who feel like they can’t talk to anyone–because no one will understand, or because they don’t trust anyone, or because there is simply no one to talk to.
Be thankful your friend has someone else who is there to support them. Trust that God has brought that person into their life for a reason. Believe that you have a role, too, even if it’s not what you hoped it would be. And be thankful for the part you have to play.
(In her book Loving Your Friend Through Cancer, Marissa Henley speaks to the Three Circles of Friendship and the many different roles people can play to support and care for others. Learn more about what your role in this situation might be.)
3. Focus On What You CAN Do
Remember 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.
Grab a piece of paper and make a list. On one side, list what you cannot control. On the other, list what you can.
For example, you can’t control whether your friend confides in you or not, but you can continue creating a safe place and supporting them.
What else can you do?
- Be available. Not just for “big talks,” but for times of fun, running errands together, just sitting with them doing nothing, etc.
- Pray. Pray for your friend. Intercede for them and ask God to be with them.
- Continue to extend invitations–but without pressure. Let them set the pace.
Final Words of Advice
In general, I highly encourage you NOT to force them to share with you. Don’t try to corner them or manipulate them or guilt them into confiding. It won’t work; it will just damage whatever trust you have with them and they will probably shut down even more.
I know it’s hard to wait, my friend. You might be waiting for something that will never come. They may never decide to share that particular hurt with you. And while it’s hard, it’s also okay. Continue taking your hurt and theirs to God and let Him heal it.
Do you know what I did when I realized the girl on my hall wasn’t ready to talk to me? I spent the night praying for her. It was the only thing I knew to do, and so that’s what I did. I had to trust that her family and others would be there to care for her as she went home.
Has a friend ever NOT talked with you? What did you do?