Across the Pastor’s Desk: Crying is a sign of our humanity

Published 8:00 pm Friday, February 2, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Ask the Pastor’s Desk by Ken Jensen

Lecturer Leo Buscaglia relates a personal experience of when he was asked to be a judge in a contest to choose the most caring child. The winner was a 4-year-old boy. The boy’s next-door neighbor was an elderly man who had recently lost his wife.

Kenneth Jensen

The grieving husband was sitting in his garden crying. The little boy went to him, climbed into his lap, and merely sat there

Email newsletter signup

When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy replied, “Nothing. I just helped him cry.”

“As Jesus traveled through towns and villages, he witnessed crowds of people. Upon seeing them,” Matthew writes, “…he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” — Matthew 9:36, NIV

Jesus was compassionate. He knew when to listen, when to speak and when to act.

Business executive Harvey MacKay notes: “Compassion is at the heart of every little thing that we do. It is the dearest quality we possess. Yet all too often, it can be cast aside, with consequences too tragic to speak of. To lose our compassion, we lose what it is to be human.”

People feeling harassed or hopeless need a shepherd. They are vulnerable to media advertisers, scam artists, cult leaders and political demagogues. Not only the abused but also the abuser lose what it means to be human.

During my ministry I served as a long-term care chaplain, a hospital chaplain and a police chaplain. I was frequently called upon to be with strangers informed of a tragedy or sudden death of a loved one. What could I do for them?

While hugs, when appropriate, can be comforting, words are not. So often we feel as though we must say something. We can end up saying hurtful comments such as: “I know how you feel” or “It’s God’s will.” No! We do not know how they feel nor is it God’s will.

The greater need is to not be alone. Remaining silent gives individuals time and opportunity to express their pain, their anger, their grief and their fears without feeling dismissed or judged. Sometimes the most compassionate thing we can do in our shared humanity is to say nothing and let someone cry.

The Rev. Ken Jensen is a retired ELCA pastor living in Albert Lea.