In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: And It’s All Small Stuff” books were at the height of their popularity, I would read the title and wonder, “What about the Mom of twins who just found out that she has stage 4 cancer? Is that ‘small stuff’”? At the time, I knew of a distant family friend who was my age, had toddler twins like me, and discovered she would not see them grow up.
In defense of Richard Carlson’s point, I’m sure he wouldn’t have categorized life-threatening illnesses as ‘small stuff’, but such attitudes definitely make us take pause, don’t they? By ‘attitudes’ I simply mean those who minimize even the greatest tragedies and offer ill-timed advice such as, “Everything happens for a reason”. Ironically, those providing such wisdom have rarely (if ever) gone through “big stuff”.
If you read my post “The (UN)Enthusiastic Mom”, you know that I’m someone who attempts to clear the mental deck daily and keep myself focused on what’s good around me. The longer we live in this world, the more effort this takes. That said, there is serious “stuff” within my current circle of influence that is not “small” and should not receive a flippant “positive spin”.
For example, our friends just buried their mother who deteriorated daily for the last seven years from the dignity-depraving ravishment of Alzheimer’s. Other family members are desperate to save their son from his cyclical use of heroin, and all the stunning behavioral horrors that accompany such addiction. A friend of mine is suffering alongside her spouse as he battles the mysterious and unpredictable disease of depression. Another close friend is attempting to manage the social, parental, emotional, and geographical shock and fall-out of ending a 24-year marriage.
Ugly, sad life situations do not need a, “oh, it’s going to be fine” statement – at least not when people are in excruciating pain right before our eyes. Certainly not when they are deeply struggling with the “whys?” in life.
Let’s not be the people or worse yet, the Christians, who offer what I term “Stupid Comfort”. It is not all “small” stuff and we dare not minimize another’s pain. When we just don’t have words, let’s be quiet by our friends’ sides, or honestly say, “There are no words to comfort you; I’m just here.” Romans 12:15.