How do you respond to people who have lost so much during the flood?
While running the evacuation shelter, two of our members spent time just listening to the story of a woman who lost everything. Afterwards, they prayed for her. Within a few minutes of the conversation, she changed. Her countenance, attitude and perspective shifted from one of despair to hope. When she left our shelter the next day, she was not the same person who arrived 24 hours earlier.
What did she need? Emotional validation.
This lady’s life was reshaped by something beyond her control. Her past, present and future were affected by the muddy waters of destruction. She was disoriented, anxious and reeling from uncertainty. She needed to be heard.
Emotional validation is a powerful ministry response. Letting people vent and then validating their feelings goes a long way in helping a person. We have all had the experience of feeling like another person really “got us” when were sad or mad. They didn’t rush us or give us advice or diminish our situation by comparison. We were heard and it was satisfying. Then, we were able to let go of some of the negative feelings we had.
So how do we offer authentic emotional validation? Here’s some advice from an article I read:
- Let the person complete their story so you have all the facts.
- Convey you get what happened to them from their perspective (whether you agree with that perspective or not and even if their perspective is obviously skewed).
- Convey you understand how they felt as a result of what happened (from their perspective).
- Convey that their feelings are completelyreasonable.
- Convey empathy or sympathy (not pity!) for their emotional reactions.
The Bible says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak” and the old saying, “There is a reason God gave you two ears and only one mouth” are both appropriate as it pertains to emotional validation.