Q & A: I Don’t Seem To Fit In To Online Support Groups!
Posted Jun 13 2011 10:00am
Sometimes I feel very left out in the online support groups. I live with an incredible amount of daily pain and I just need someone who cares. It seems like everyone else in the group have people who support them and write them back. But when I share something from my heart all I get is a bunch of well-meaning advice. I don’t need advice! Or . . . no one responds at all. What I need is someone who will listen and try to understand. -Sandy
Hi, Sandy, I can hear the pain in your words. I am going to assume since you wrote to me you are asking for some kind of advice, so here is my best 2-cents.
Ask yourself, “What would the perfect response to my post be?” When we say we want people to “listen” and yet we are typing our posts out online, there are 4 ways people can respond. It’s different than having a friend who is sitting there beside us holding the tissue box.
 They just read it, send up a prayer, and since you don’t want advice, they choose not to post anything. This can seem like no one is reading your post, or if they are, no one cares enough to comment and encourage you.
 They write something simple like, “I am sorry you are going through a difficult time. I will pray for you.” This can be interpreted, if one chooses, as being “blown off” and not being given enough of one’s effort or time to write a personal response. Since these are people who live in just as much pain as you do, I am sure you can understand how limited energy and physical time spent on a computer can be. They often feel it’s best to respond with something, then with nothing at all, even if it’s brief.
 Someone may respond with, “I understand what you are going through. Here is how our stories are unique . . .” and then they share their story. This can be interpreted as it being “all about them” and not you or your situation. But they are often trying to find a common thread and share how they made it through a tough time, in hopes that it will encourage you.
 They give advice. They want to help. They don’t really like options 1-3 above, so they’ve chosen to try to help you through this. This can be interpreted as them having it more together than you, or as if they are trying to fix it for you with a “quick fix.” They usually have the best of intentions.
As you can see from the 4 options above, all can come with the best of intentions, and yet they can all be misinterpreted as something else if we choose to see it that way.
The first step of getting what you need out of relationships is to acknowledge what it really is that you do and expect.
The first step of getting what you need out of relationships is to acknowledge what it really is that you do and expect. Then you can communicate that to others, even in your posts online. Start off your post with, “I really just need to vent and am looking for how you got through a similar situation.”
Or, “I’m sometimes sensitive to people giving me advice, yet I am desperate enough that I am looking for suggestions on how you think I should handle this situation.”
Support groups are kind of like our families. No one is perfect, everyone is hurting. Even those we love the most will not always respond the way we’d like. I am sure I don’t always respond the way some people would like. But I do the best I can. That is all I can do.
Most of us are looking for a place where our needs can be met, rather than looking around to see who has a need where we may be able to help. I know that is can be exhausting to reach out to others when you are not feeling well, but I began Rest Ministries in 1997 and have reached out to others nearly every day since, even when my pain level was at its worst. I try to live by Proverbs 11:25 “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” I can assure you that this really happens!
Next time you feel a bit frustrated over the lack of a response, reach out to another person just because. Do it for the Lord. You may not even get a response. It may surprise you that some of the newsletters Rest Ministries sends out are opened by just 25% of our subscribers. Hundreds of devotionals have ZERO comments. But eventually we hear from many, many people, that even when they were silent, God was encouraging them through Rest Ministries. I hope this encourages you!
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and lives with rheumatoid arthritis. To increse communication between churches and individuals, see her new “ Beyond Casseroles” DVD.