Thoughts About "Thoughts & Prayers"

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“Thoughts and prayers” have become a frequent refrain during community crises, with people attempting to offer comfort and empathy during very traumatic events. Usually, the conversation about “thoughts and prayers” centers around three variations on a theme:

  1. This is a tough event for anyone to handle, and we offer our thoughts and prayers to the community dealing with this recent event;
  2. Never mind “thoughts and prayers”; how about actually doing something – changing policy,  making donations, or taking positive action; and
  3. Don’t knock anyone for offering “thoughts and prayers”, because meditation and prayer are often the only things that people can offer. 

On many levels, I can speak to this, since this past year has been particularly eventful in how I allow people to comfort me. Even despite some potential burnout and “compassion fatigue”, I think I can provide some perspective that might clarify things…if only for my friends and colleagues.

As I’ve stated before in this blog, my mother had been hospitalized in late February due to a foot infection. During the health crisis (and resulting rehabilitation), many of my friends offered to keep me in their “thoughts and prayers.” I found it extremely comforting…after all, knowing people were pulling for me to succeed. Yet, “thoughts and prayers” were often used in a wide variety of situations. So since I’ve been looking for freelance work while caregiving, people would keep me in their “thoughts and prayers”…0902171913

…but many of those people were in positions to offer me potential leads. Some offered unsolicited,  inappropriate feedback and advice (like telling me not to send my mother to a skilled nursing facility to rehab because of the odor), others provided what sounded like assistance but felt defeatist (like telling me to consider receiving training to become a paid caregiver for Mom; I’ve investigated and it’s not workable). Worse, many of my colleagues offer “thoughts and prayers” as a casual afterthought like saying “bless you” after someone sneezes. Rather than find comfort, it sounds like an excuse…and becomes increasingly annoying.

In light of recent events such as storms in Houston and Puerto Rico, the riots in Charlottesville, and the latest shooting…” thoughts and prayers” have been an easy excuse to avoid action and drive social change. And that’s the problem.

We live in very challenging times, and many people find comfort in pursuits like meditation and contemplation. (And yes, I am including atheists as well as more religious people). For many of us, the importance of being kind to each other has diminished in recent months, and that lack of kindness takes its toll psychologically and spiritually. When I take inventory of my actions over recent months, some of my behavior embarrasses me…but I also know that my own “thoughts and prayers” towards others won’t matter unless I change my behavior. Otherwise, I am only making an empty promise and never have to make positive changes. (Although I must admit that I have to laugh at myself in order to stay grounded.)

We all can’t donate to causes, but we can support. We can contact our legislators when key bills are being considered on the state and federal. We can provide support to our colleagues at marches and events. Because no matter what your particular political stance, positive action always take precedence over “thoughts and prayers.”

Please share your thoughts via our Facebook page or in the comments section below. If you want to contact me privately, you can find that information via this blog’s About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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