Parker Palmer is a writer that blesses me. He shares honestly about his life and faith. In his book, "Let Your Life Speak" he shares his deep and profound struggle with depression. His depression disconnected him from himself, his feelings, his faith, his friends. He felt isolated.
He writes about some of the things that didn't help. One was when someone would say, "I know exactly how you feel. . . ." He said that he didn't hear anything beyond that because he knew that the person was peddling falsehood. No one can know the mystery of the depth of another person. This desire to over-identify with another just made him feel more isolated.
Then Parker says, "One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another person’s pain without trying to ‘fix’ it, to simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person’s mystery and misery."
How true it is. "Simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person's mystery and misery." The deeper in pain a person goes, the more mystery they discover. They can share that mystery only in fragments. We who stand with them can only glimpse the misery, the mystery. We can only receive those glimpses as gifts.
Maybe the best we can do for each other is to stay close and respect the borders between ourselves and them, thus honoring their unique and mysterious experience of life. It may not sound like much, but respecting another person in their misery might be the most important gift they can receive.