In which I advocate for being a person

How about this? How about when someone is before us, a real, live person, suffering, we be a person?

Don’t be a defender of an institution. Don’t be an office. Don’t be a title. Don’t be a minimizer, a gloss-over-er, a down-player. Don’t be an oracle or an activist. Don’t be a self-help manual or an encyclopaedia or a concordance or a few tactical probing questions to steer the conversation. Don’t be the fault-finder. Don’t be God works all things for good. And don’t be pray harder, or more faith-ier. Don’t be the voice of their worst fears and accusations. Don’t be the shame-er.

Instead, when we are privileged to be present as someone’s heart is breaking open with pain and longing and doubt and questions and terror and loss and grief and love and hope and fear, before our very eyes, as they are in the midst of wrestling with God and it’s tangible and not fixed by seven-steps-to-a-better-life-and-whiter-teeth, how about this?

How about we be human right alongside of them?

How about we hold them? How about we say that it sucks, and it’s not fair? How about we say we’re sorry, admit we don’t really understand? How about we become comfortable with silence? How about we become the one that can listen without judgement, the one that can take it without being shocked and affronted and offended by honesty? How about we say we love them? How about we say that we’re here and then we prove it? How about we learn how to hold hands, to hug, to sit beside, to write hand written letters, to bring meals, to baby sit, to do laundry, to make phone calls, to meet for coffee, to pray and pray and pray in secret? There is plenty of time for talking it through, figuring it out together, seeking solutions, there is probably even time for fixing it.

But in that moment, when they are feeling their humanity so acutely, surround them with the grace of being seen, being heard, and simply being loved.

How about we simply fall in step, alongside, and we walk each other home in that moment?


church, faith, suffering

41 Responses to In which I advocate for being a person

  1. ashley santiago May 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    I second all that you’ve said. Often times when we see the humanity of others, we feel the need to be superior. Not at all….Not Christ like at all

  2. Ashleigh Baker May 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    This sounds like being Jesus with skin on. Why do we forget He loved this way and taught God’s truth while taking on humanity?

  3. kathyescobar May 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm #


  4. Kelly @ Love Well May 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    You mean you want us to actually live compassion instead of preach it? Shocking, Ms. Bessey. 

  5. Zoggdog May 22, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    So true.

  6. Christina Hall May 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm #


    Perhaps when we’re privileged to crouch alongside someone in their moments of confession or despair, it frightens us that we might get a glimpse of our own humanity.

    It’s almost as though we try to train the empathy right out of ourselves. If that is the case, then I cannot imagine a more fortunate gift of Christ to be alongside that other person as they break open in front of us. Hopefully we can bring ourselves to be so bold.

  7. HeatherKopp May 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Sarah, I love this so much. I was recently have a small disagreement with someone about my role in a situation and the person said, “but is that your role as a sponsor?” and I said, “No, but it’s my role as a human being.” It’s so easy to get hung up on our roles, not just in situations where boundaries are tough, but just in general. What if I lay down my role as Mom and instead just be present to my son without wearing that so automatically? The trouble with roles is that they are like a default. And I’d rather just not do that and take the effort to really just be with a person as just me. Does that make sense. Your post always make me think. So lovely–is what I usually think. Heather

  8. Connie Jakab May 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    ok I LOVE this post, Sarah.  I work among organizations in Calgary who are combatting poverty and this is their message. We need to expel the “us and them”.  Once we embrace the humanity you speak of some radical movements of change for PEOPLE not ministries, organizations will gain back their footing.  Preach it, girl :)

  9. Shelly Miller May 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    I love this. I just had to do this very thing last night with my twelve year old son. Its hard but easy all at the same time. We don’t need to have all the answers just love and lots of it. Beautifull encouragement here.

  10. Laura May 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    I’m grateful for people who have done this for me — in some cases, it was years before I understood that that’s what they were doing. 

  11. Kristin May 22, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    thanks for putting these important thoughts into gentle words. I think I am learning to be better at this human thing; but only because of all the tough stuff I’ve walked through. It’s my hope that the hard stuff didn’t harden me, but soften me to talk less (now that’s HARD!) and listen more.

  12. Tara_pohlkottepress May 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    the saying i just and that i have on top of my blog says to me just this. “We are all just walking eachother home.” Ram Dass.  And aren’t we?  when did it stop becoming a privilege to walk with one another. to feel our human skin brush up against eachother.  God did not make Eve so that she could help Adam solve problems, suggest solutions, or condone the animals for the way they live.  He made two creatures so that they could experience humanity together.  that’s it. 

  13. Brittaney May 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    Ooh, I would love to know what the inciting incident for this was…

  14. Leah Colbeck May 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Yes, yes, yes. We all need this advice. We all forget sometimes.

  15. jamie parker May 22, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    Oh my gosh…I love this so much. thank you. 

  16. Maree Caseri May 22, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    This post made me tear up. It’s so beautiful and powerful. I love your message, and this is how I want to be – how I think Jesus wants me to be. Thank you for this post, it has truly impacted my day and the way I look at people.

  17. Stephanie Strauss Hall May 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    “How about this?”   “How” is so powerful here.  Love it.  Tears.  
    You’re a notice-er (made up word).  Noticing is heart wrenching and heart building beautiful. 

  18. the Blah Blah Blahger May 22, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Yes…we all need this reminder. Please be sure to repost it often!!!

  19. Hannah May 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    I’ve noticed as I read more theology that a number of theologians advocate eating with one another. This is one of the impetuses for the popularity of New Monastics, I think, and it’s such an important thing that we can so easily overlook. It’s far too easy to walk into communities of broken and hurting people and assuming we have the solution, when of course the solutions must come from inside, and our place is to ‘be with’ people, standing silently with them in their pain and eating with them, until there is no longer a distinction between us and them.

  20. Tara Livesay May 22, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Yes.  This.   dead on.    You know what’s funny?  The people that pull this off are the people we all go to …. we avoid the “God is in control” responses because those people don’t understand “grieve with those who grieve” ….. I have had a post in the drafts with very similar thoughts but your articulation is a billion times better.  :) 

  21. Mandy May 22, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    Beautifully said! You have been this for me in my life. So, thank you!

  22. HopefulLeigh May 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    Oh, yes indeed. This is how I strive to live, Sarah. I kept this idea in the back of my mind whether working with patients or sitting next to friends. One of the greatest gifts we can give another is our presence. When we slow down to listen and seek to understand, then and only then might we be privileged to advise and talk through. But in many cases, our words of wisdom are not necessary.

  23. H Fancott May 22, 2012 at 9:40 pm #


  24. Terri May 22, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    Not to go all concordancy or anything, but YES!

    Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

    Doesn’t come much more simple than that. Well apart from “Love”… :)

  25. Erin Adams May 22, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    Be a person.  Duh!  You want to know a weird place where I was struck over the head with this lesson?  Watching “The Way We Were”.  Yep.  Robert Redford & Barbara Streisand.  Ha!!   Even though my politics aren’t the same as her characters, I saw so much of myself in that role.  The righteous activist.  So much of the story I was thinking Redford’s character was the shallow one.  In their final argument before they part ways, he tells her that “this is about people, not beliefs”.  She says, “people are what they believe!”  Ah!  When she said that out loud & his heart was breaking, I felt a bit broken.  I know so much of me operated(s) that way – believing that people are what they believe.  

  26. april karli May 22, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    when we are privileged to be present as someone’s heart is breaking open”

    Privilege is the perfect word. And too often we are caught unaware of that holy moment, and we are too uncomfortable feeling someone else’s pain, so we try to stop it with a Bible verse or book suggestion. 

  27. Rach4god May 22, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    My brother passed away from a drug over dose 4 weeks ago and this is exactly how I feel….. you said everything I have been thinking and feeling. It is beautiful. Thank you!!

  28. Jeannette Altes May 22, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Yes. This.

  29. suzannah {the smitten word} May 23, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    damn straight!

  30. Kels May 23, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    As a licensed mental health professional, I wholeheartedly agree. It’s amazing how often we forget that the person in front of us is a privilege. Seeing the heart of an image-bearer is a beautiful experience. It’s too bad so many can’t slow down enough even internally to experience true connection with another.

  31. Chrissy May 23, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    This is so beautiful Sarah. So so beautiful…when we discover our powerlessness it allows us to love so much deeper. XO

  32. Linda Stoll May 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    … simply being silently present is the greatest gift one can give another …

  33. dre May 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Wow. Yesterday I battled just this. I just want someone to come along side me and be human and to not spit these bible answers at me, but to recognize that my feelings and emotions are very real…. and to just allow me to feel them…. I get tired of the cliche answers. 

  34. krd May 23, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    I’d like to advocate for the real hope and help in the Scriptures applied sometimes by others if you are open enough and humble enough to accept it.  When I was 20 (I am now 55) my fiance was shot and killed in a robbery attempt where he worked.  If it wasn’t for people who sent me and quoted to me relevant Scripture for my circumstances, I would have waded in the mire of my own shrouded and inadequate human wisdom.  Those Scriptures renewed my mind and gave me peace which passed all understanding.  And yes, God did use it for good!  It was the greatest turning point in my life and has given me the desire to proclaim Him the healer, helper and rescuer of my life.  I bless those whose Spirit filled words pointed me to God’s Word and beyond myself to something and Someone greater. I always love hearing the Truth whether it is cliche, trite or otherwise.

  35. Sillydoodah (Dawn) May 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    I know it isn’t very Jesusy of me to say this, but “Damn, girl. Preach it.”

  36. Christie May 24, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    Yes! Why do we spend so much time trying to “fix” each other…

    My friend, usually very proper and pure, said that the best thing anyone said/did after her miscarriage was the guy who just said “That’s really shitty” and gave her a hug.

  37. Cjsaati May 24, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    Tears.  Having just held my 37month old daughter while she took her final breaths and died from cancer after suffering greatly for 15 months, your words bring me to tears.  I have a few people to thank for just being human right along side me for a year and a half.   I have been loved deeply and sincerely.  It’s an indescribable gift from Jesus.  “Love must be sincere, hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer…” Romans 12:9-12

  38. From Ministry to Motherhood May 24, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    When I read this I wondered what kind of pain you’ve recently witnessed and what acts of unhumanness that have been laid before your eyes to spark such a passionate witness of truth.  I’d like to think that we as Christians strive to live together in real, human ways but sadly it’s not always this way.  There is so much work that needs to be done.  To live as Jesus lived and embrace the world with love sounds so perfect yet seems to be so difficult at times.  

    The world needs more love spoken into it and more actions that spread it.  Thanks for the great reminder. 

  39. Gemma Hartley May 24, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    I love this post so much. It was just what I needed to read today. The impact of compassion and love in the most vulnerable moments of the human experience simply cannot be measured. Thank you for writing your heart out.

  40. Kathy Harter May 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    What a great post..thank you.

  41. Jodymusic June 2, 2012 at 1:33 am #

    Sarah, I enjoy reading your posts and today I linked to this one from my FB page. It’s a message I hope inspires others to be more human. Thanks for writing this!

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