"He laughed at me," my six year old daughter cried as she approached me from the pool. I asked what happened. "I jumped in the pool backwards, and the lifeguard said not to do it again. Then he said 'You got in trouble!' and laughed at me."
Trying to lessen the blow of the boy's words I said, "Well, who cares what he says?" She looked at me with big soulful eyes, trying not to cry and said, "I do!" I pulled her close and told her how sorry I was for his hurtful words.
I messed up. I was trying to negate the hurt she was feeling, trying to make her feel better. What she needed was for me to validate her hurt. Tell her, yes, that words do hurt and it's okay to feel pain. I messed up, but hopefully I got on the right track after she was so articulate in conveying how she felt.
I was reminded of the time when I was talking with a friend before I gave my testimony about my childhood at church. "I'm afraid I'm going to cry," I said. "I cried when I read it," was the friend's response. No assurances I wouldn't cry. No platitudes that I'd be fine or everything would be okay. Just validating me that if I cried, there was in fact reason to cry.
Jesus provides a wonderful example of validation in the story of Lazarus' death found in John 11. As Jesus and his disciples headed to Judea, He told them that Lazarus had died, and that Jesus was going to raise him from the dead. When they arrived and Jesus saw how upset Mary and the family were over Lazarus death, He didn't say, "Stop crying! I'm going to raise him from the dead." He didn't say, "Everything will be okay, wait and see!" No, the Bible tells us Jesus wept. Jesus wept! That is the picture of validating their feelings! He wept with them, even knowing that Lazarus would be raised in a moment.
Is someone telling you how upset they are today? Why not validate their feelings instead of trying to fix them? Sometimes, we don't want someone to fix us. We just want someone to listen to us, to validate us, and maybe, even, to weep with us. Be that someone, like Jesus, today.