Whenever I sit in a room full of quiet fertility patients, I’ve found a quick way to get the conversation started. I simply ask, “Has anyone ever been insensitive about your infertility?” At first they give me the “duh” look, indicating that the stupidity of my question is on par with, “Has Oprah ever been on a diet?” But after that momentary pause, they stumble over each other with anecdotes.
Is there a way to keep control when someone asks, “How can you miss something you never had?” instead of tongue-slicing back with, “You mean, like your brain?” It’s tough; but yes.
1. Realize we do it, too. A single friend had confided in me her agony over remaining unmarried. Weeks later, I found myself later crowing to her about my husband’s spontaneous gift of flowers. How insensitive! When my neighbor got the flu, I caught myself asking, “Have you been taking Vitamin C?” How annoying! I wanted them to understand I meant no harm. Yet how difficult it is sometimes to give away the same grace we want from others.
2. Let yourself feel frustrated. Consider Job. It seems the old patriarch grew tired of hearing his friends’ “blame the victim” explanations for his sufferings. So he lashed out with, “Surely wisdom will die with you!” (Job 12:2). Can’t you just hear his sarcasm?
Frustration in the face of insensitive remarks is not necessarily a sign of unspirituality. Remember Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians: “Be angry and sin not.” (Eph. 4:26).
3. Train the trainable. For some, like the guy who asks if you want him to “show you how it’s done,” the only reasonable answer is Miss Manners’ firmly-stated “Why would you ask something like that?” For the rest, there’s more hope. Identify those you consider teachable; then share with them what you need from them.
4. Gripe in the Spirit. Go ahead and throw a private temper tantrum. Hannah cried to the Lord when the co-wife in her home mocked her with fertility-related barbs (1 Samuel 1). Remember that Christ knows how it feels to receive senseless insults.
5. Ask for supernatural grace to return evil with good. “Growing in grace (2 Peter 3:18) includes growing in giving away grace,” says my mentor, Elizabeth. The apostle’s advice dovetails with another scripture: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat . . . “ (Proverbs 25:21). This verse immediately follows a description of would-be comforters: “ . . . like vinegar on soda is he who sings songs to a troubled heart (Proverbs 25:20). Think there might be a connection? I do.
This article first appeared in HomeLife Magazine.