A song today reminded me of a troubled acquaintance. I have genuine affection for this man, although we are not intimate friends. I am also currently in a stage of life that involves vanishingly small emotional and temporal reserves. I would like to write a kind note to him, some expression of solidarity and remembrance for his recent trials. Part of me fears, though, that he would call me on it. He would ask me to be present for him at a much higher level than an occasional kind word. And I would either become enmeshed in a turmoil that distracts me from my family, or he would decry me as a hypocrite.
I have been present with enough people to know that those who suffer often do not look kindly on people who write platitudes or distant condolences but refuse to engage on a deeper level when it is asked of them. These kindly expressions become a mockery of the type of nurturing relationship that they crave. I do not want to add insult to injury or heap up emotional strain as I raise and then frustrate expectations.
Instead of undertaking such a perilous act, though, I remain silent, not daring to share the kindness that I feel at the level I believe I can support.
Am I being paranoid? Is this an instance of a demand for perfection preventing the exercise of good? Or should I stay silent unless and until I can offer more than a kind word? I am sympathetic to the suggestion that the Holy Spirit should be one’s guide in such complex areas, but I suspect this topic is one many of us wonder about or struggle with.