“You have given great advice and wonderful wisdom to someone truly in need. How can anyone possibly speak with such understanding?” – Job

    I like Job, especially in his humanity. One of the oldest books in the bible, and one that really stuck with me. I really like Job, a great deal, in fact – especially in his response to his friends while suffering publicly. They just couldn’t sit quietly with him for very long, sharing in his pain and suffering. It was uncomfortable. They just couldn’t stop themselves from moralizing, lecturing, pontificating, and generally arm-chairing Job’s suffering. Job (gasp), despaired. Which was equal to blasphemy in his friends’ eyes.  Their internal offense at Job’s despair/blasphemy may have motivated their ‘compassion’. However, what really bothered Job’s friends most, was, what that suffering revealed about themselves, and their comments to Job betray that.

Job wasn’t having any of it. In fact, he was scathingly, sarcastically honest, holding nothing back. Each one in turn received no less from Job. Job was certain about one thing: He realized just how much he didn’t understand or know, and it far outweighed what he did know. In the story, God was even more blunt in his response to Job’s friends:

“What my servant Job has said about me is true, but I am angry at you and your two friends for not telling the truth.”

Job was intimately aware of the Mystery of suffering. He intuitively knew not everything calamitous, not every disaster, not everything suffered in our existence is a result of sin or having done something wrong. In his own way, Job expressed, as Franz Kafka did in The Trial: “It’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves.”. God’s answer to Job’s friends really wasn’t that much different either for that matter.

I can *really* identify with both responses – and frequently do. Isn’t it amazing how so many people, (family, friends, co-workers, strangers even), are so full of (unsolicited) advice based on their own (incorrect or ignorant) assumptions when my life is filling up with the unexpected, on full display for the entire universe to see?

In my life, others, acquaintances, family, co-workers, complete strangers even, especially from the church ladies, frequently will offer unsolicited, moralizing, lecturing, pontificating, ignorantly judgmental advice. In the process, they generally armchair mine and others’ lives full of their un-asked-for editorializing. Without hesitation, with certainty and incorrect assumptions, they fill in from their own ignorance of others’ quiet suffering. “Where there’s smoke there’s fire”, “It’s all because of sin”, “You have no one to blame but yourself.”,  “Someone needs to say something.”, “I’m only telling this because I care about you.”, “Someone has to confront you about it”.
Why do so many religious folk do this? I don’t know. This is precisely what bothers them the most: They Don’t Know. And it bothers them most that they don’t. They are unable to admit they don’t know. In such a refusal, they lose the ability to learn, anything, from anyone, anywhere, anytime, until they admit they don’t know.

Mysteries, doubt, uncertainty all defy the certainty with which the screaming, pounding, judgemental, recycled answers spring from. All of which makes their claimed pronouncements, full of so much certainty, all the more absurd and meaningless.

The next time you hear of or see someone suffering, don’t assume, don’t presume to know, speak, judge, cluck, or ask ‘Why?’. Then, you will know what motivates you, from where it comes. If not, be fully prepared to answer Job’s question: ‘Whose spirit is coming from your mouth?’. Don’t be so quick to answer that question, not without searching your heart first.

I am not a teacher, nor do I claim to be. I don’t claim to be anything other than a man, a significant other, a friend, brother, son, or co-worker. This Christmas, Hannukka, Holiday season: Be Respectful, Be Humble, Be Loving, Be Gentle, Be Kind. Don’t Assume, Don’t Be Offended, and most importantly: Don’t read anything else into what I share, other than:

Be Still. Be with and comfort those who are suffering. Don’t do it with words. Do it with actions.

For those worshipping a book:  Don’t



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Just a guy directly challenged to write and share my experiences. This is not easy.

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