I am not a doctor, but I play one on TV. That is a line I remember from a childhood commercial. In other words, I have no idea how to be a real doctor, but I am a good actor. Nowadays I think the line should be. “I am not a psychologist, but I play one online.” Every day I read all kinds of psychobabble floating around social media. Most of it means well as we want to understand our world, our friends, and even our actions. The problem is that they are armed with a little knowledge and have no idea how to use it.
I once had a conversation with a doctor, and he told me the biggest frustration in his profession was the internet. Everyone who came into his office had read several articles online, and they were sure what was wrong with them. He told me, and they are almost always wrong. What makes it worse is that some people already start treating themselves without really knowing the problem. The line he used, as best I can remember it, was, “You go to at least eight years of medical school for a reason.”
We live in a society full of information, and I hope we keep learning, but frequently I encounter people who have made a wrong diagnosis about their friends. So today I want to make a couple of suggestions on how to handle the people around you who are struggling.
- Listen. The single most significant thing you can do for most people is to listen to their problems. They do not need a diagnosis or a solution. They need someone to listen.
- Learn. Pay attention as you listen. You will be amazed by what you can learn about people. More than once, I have seen people emotionally breakdown because someone remembered something they said or did.
- Lead. Most people are not looking for advice; they are looking for a companion. They want someone to help them on their journey through a difficult time. Your online post about the trouble with narcissistic behavior is way less helpful than inviting that person to help you serve others. Show them the way to a better life.
- Love. Once again, you do not need to have profound psychological insights into the mind of the suffering. You just need to love the people who are hurting. You need to stand beside those who need a friend. You need to help guide those whose lives have gone off track. Finally, you need to let them know you care when all others have turned away.
The other night I was scrolling through my social media feeds, and I was troubled by the repeated things that people share, like and give approval in that setting. We have somehow all become experts at things of which we have no idea. Just like you should not perform surgery because you have read some stuff on WebMD, it is not helpful to psychoanalyze people because you saw a meme that you find applicable.
If you as a believer want to make a difference in the world, then my suggestion is that you listen, learn, lead, and love as Christ would do for someone. These may not always work, but they will be far more helpful than most of the stuff I see.