If you’re looking for bad news these days, you don’t have to look. It will come to you on every one of the screens that sling negative news and incendiary images into our mind’s newsfeed.
Most of us would agree that the news today is depressing with its messages of divorce, drugs, disconnection, divisiveness, and discord. And, oh yeah, there’s disease and COVID-19.
It is against that backdrop that a friend hears our painful story and says with a straight face: “It Could Be Worse” (ICBW).
OF COURSE “IT” COULD BE WORSE!
After all, most of us cannot say we have suffered like “they did” or like the “first Christians” who put their lives on the line by confessing and professing faith in Jesus. They lost their money and property and families. And they died.
We have turned a seemingly harmless phrase–one that no doubt started as an innocent expression of condolence–into a dangerous missive.
It is not innocent and not harmless and not sympathetic. It is a TOKEN tossed to a terrified soul.
Here’s the hidden and rarely-discussed secret behind WHY people say ICBW: They crave the solace that comes from seeing that someone else has it worse than they do.
When a person is brave enough to discuss their feelings with us, the least supportive thing to say is ICBW. That line instantly invalidates the person.
Here’s the real message we deliver with our ICBW line: “Your current plight or predicament or pain is not that bad.”
We should not be trying to SOLVE the person’s problem on our behalf. We should be trying to SUMMON Christ on their behalf by acknowledging; understanding; and validating the person’s situation.
I ask God to give me the right words to say when someone shares their pain with me.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What will you say to the next person who explains their pain instead of “It Could Be Worse”?
“The Lord is merciful and will not reject us forever. He may bring us sorrow, but his love for us is sure and strong. He takes no pleasure in causing us grief or pain.” Lamentations 3:31-33