The other day, I was Googling friendship quotes, and I happened across this one: Our most difficult task as a friend is to offer understanding when we don't understand. ~Robert Brault. When I read that, it struck me that it is, indeed, a difficult task - to be understanding even when we don't get it. To offer our support even as we are scratching our head trying to figure out why a friend got themselves into a situation in the first place. To offer that friend support and compassion is not always an automatic reaction.
Our knee-jerk reaction is often to offer advice on how the problem could have been avoided in the first place. Or perhaps we just want to tell the friend to pull it together, and move on already. Admittedly, both of those scenarios have their place, and sometimes it's exactly what our friend needs.
However, there are other times when a friend just needs a soft place to fall. They need us to listen, to nod appropriately and make murmuring, purring noises intermittently while hugging them closely. They aren't ready for the tough love advice, and that's okay. We don't need to understand why they are stuck where they are, or to comprehend how they got there. Our only role is to come along beside them and offer understanding.
I have been on both sides of this coin. At times, I have been privileged to hold a friend's hand, and offer an ear or a shoulder. Then, at times, I am the one who just wants a bit of understanding. I guess that is the way of friendship - Sometimes we are the comforting one and sometimes the comforted. How wonderful it is to find friends who are able to move back and forth with us between roles. It is a beautiful and delicate balancing dance when it works well, and I count myself blessed to have friends like this.
Yes, offering understanding even when we don't understand is difficult, but when we are able to accomplish it, It means so much to the person who simply needs some understanding. After all, isn't that what all of us really need from others? A bit of understanding, along with some acceptance. I think so.