The Power Of Being Present


“We need to be angels for each other, to give each other strength and consolation. Because only when we fully realize that the cup of life is not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy will we be able to drink it.” – Henri Nouwen

To be present in the midst of someone else’s pain is difficult, to say the least. All we want to do is fix whatever is wrong. We want to say the perfect thing to make it all better. We want to give them something that will take all the sorrow away. We hate to feel inadequate, useless and unhelpful, and so we try to relieve the other person of their suffering. We try to make them feel “happy” again. We try to make them "whole". We try to make them "better".

What damage we can do to the spirit of another when we say simplistic things to appease our own unsettledness or our neediness! To be present is to be present. It is not to suppress or mask the issue, it is to sit still and bear with another. It is to weep. It is to stay. It is to be uncomfortable. It is to be like Christ. Often we bring the most hope to a difficult situation when we just show up; when we refuse to run away out of fear. To be a true and faithful companion is the best gift we can offer.

As deacons, we often find ourselves considering the tangible needs of individuals and what resources we have that we can offer. This is a key part of the ministry we are called into. However, we should take care to ensure that the support we give is the support that is needed. It is entirely possible that we, ourselves, are the resource we have to offer. If we forget that fact by hiding behind the tangible solutions, we may miss out on being an angel for another. We may even miss out on what we're called to.

How have you been blessed by the presence of another person? Have you ever been hurt by someone’s trite "hopeful" words while you were in a time of suffering? How does realizing that you, yourself, may be "the best gift you can offer" affect the way you live?

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Jean Vanier, founder of L'arche, focuses on building community with others by being present with them.  Your post made me think of what a ministry of presence could look like for deacons and our churches.  It is challenging to slow down our pace - getting beyond meeting agendas and 'to do' lists, to just being present with others.  I wonder what stories of being present are out there?

Tammy! That is such a great connection to make. Thank you for sharing it. I love the question you've posed, and I too am curious to hear the stories. I wonder if you have one that can start us off?

P. S. Thanks for joining the Network! :) I'm glad you're here.

Thank you for your insights.  Whether one is doing the work of a deacon or that of a hospice chaplain (myself), possibly the most significant thing we do is to be present, be silent, be good listeners.  Again, thank you for sharing your wisdom.

When I was in college, for a semester abroad that I spent in Uganda, we were required to read a book by John Taylor, entitled "The Primal Vision" It's emphasis was on being present with others. It was not an easy read, but it was good and it set the tone for our entire semester there. I would highly recommend it as a help on this topic.