Have you ever noticed that when people discover you’re divorced they treat you differently? Okay, maybe not you specifically, but to others you may know. It’s as if they discovered you have some and explainable disease that could very well be contagious and they don’t want to be around you for fear of catching something.
I’ve heard that it could simply be that people just don’t know what to say when they hear the news and so they opt not to say anything. I know, I’ve been there with someone I once worked with. I simply said, “I’m sorry” to her and looked for a convenient way to exit the conversation.
I was sharing this with a good friend recently and we both likened it to a double rejection. You’re already depressed and dejected about your own divorce — since your own marriage didn’t work out and you’re feeling bad about it, and now your friends won’t talk to you because they don’t know what to say in response to the news that you just got a divorce.
It’s a bit ironic in a way, given our cultural acceptance of divorce. Maybe that’s just the human condition when it comes to bad news. Good news is, well, good. We celebrate it. We hail it. We enjoy it. But when bad news comes: divorce, cancer, losing a job, etc., we somehow lose the ability to empathize, so we often do the only other thing we know to do, and that’s open our mouths and offer advice.
There’s a lot to be gleaned from the Book of Job in the Old Testament. I guess what jumps out at me from the story (and believe me, there’s a lot there) is recorded in the last half of chapter 2. This is where Job’s friends, upon receiving the news of the tragedies he suffered, “traveled from their homes to comfort and console him.”
I think that’s the best thing we can do for friends who are suffering. There will be plenty of time to talk later.