When Good People Say Stupid Things

My dad died suddenly during Spring Break of my sophomore year of high school. When we arrived for the funeral, the sidewalks on both sides of the funeral home were packed with dozens of my friends. I locked eyes with many of them on the way in. A hand slipped into mine. An arm went around my shoulder. 

I remember it vividly, over 35 years later. It still brings a lump to my throat.

No one said a word. They didn’t need to. They simply chose to be with me in my grief.

A Lesson from Job’s Friends

In the Old Testament book of Job, the main character found himself in the midst of terrible grief. All ten of his children died in a single day. He lost his health shortly afterward. When three of Job’s friends came to visit, his suffering had taken such a toll they hardly even recognized him.

Then comes this powerful statement: “They sat on the ground with him for seven days, silent, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

Job's grief stunned and silenced them, as it should have. 

After that week of silence, Job began to express his pain. He blurted out some things his friends were uncomfortable with. They corrected him, judged him, and boldly asked what horrible thing he had done to deserve such loss. They made Job himself responsible for what happened.

In the end, Job said, “Miserable comforters, all of you.”

They were great, until they opened their mouths

Job’s friends were great, until they opened their mouths. They were uncomfortable with his pain level. His grief must have triggered theirs. Instead of choosing to enter his world and walk with him in his grief, they made it about them. They gave pat answers. They attempted to talk him out of his feelings. They tried to fix it. And in doing so, they judged him, devalued him, and minimized his loss.


We’ve all experienced well-meaning people saying stupid things. When people haven’t dealt with their own grief well, our pain will trigger theirs. All they can think about is avoiding the unpleasantness of the emotions that are rising up within them.

Find people who will offer you their presence

At first, Job’s friends did well. They offered him the most powerful thing they could – their presence. And their silence honored his heart and his losses.

There are people out there like that for you too.

There are people who will just be with you. They feel your suffering. They know there are no words for such things.

There are people in whose presence you can grieve. You can be yourself, where you are, at any given moment. They will meet you where you are and not require you to be where they are.

There are people who will walk alongside you as you travel this valley. They have no agenda other than offering you the greatest thing they can – themselves.

If you haven’t found people like this, look for them. Usually they are people who know grief and are well acquainted with suffering. If you’ve got them in your life already, thank them, and let them love you by being with you in this valley.

People will make all the difference in your grief process, one way or another. Get around those who are helpful to you, and limit your exposure to those who aren’t.

Yes, good people will say stupid things. Forgive them. Don’t let what they say hold your heart hostage. Find those who will offer you their presence, and enjoy them.


About the Author

Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley. He is the author of the award-winning bestsellers Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child, Please Be Patient, I'm Grieving, HEARTBROKEN: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse, and Surviving the Holidays without You and the co-author (with New York Times Bestseller Cecil Murphey) of Saying Goodbye: Facing the Loss of a Loved One. Visit him at www.garyroe.com.

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