1. Extensive evidence points to the value of social support in hard times, but not all support is supportive. Read the blog post on support: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-love-an…
We have seen that victims of IPV and rape (among other crimes) are often faced with unhelpful comments or victim-blaming from others that can intensify their misery and isolation. Why do we generally seem to be so bad at offering social support such that we need the advice in a post like this? You might draw on your own experience of receiving support in difficult times that was helpful or unhelpful.
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I believe for most of us, our intentions are good when we try to offer social support. I think one of the worst things is for a family member or friend to remain silent and make no attempts to show support. In the article, the author mentioned, “Another study found that an absence of social support was a major predictor of depression” which I believe is true. However, I’ve run into instances where I received poor remarks/comments and I know I have also failed at times to provide proper support. I think one of the reasons why we can fail at times to offer good social support (without it backfiring) is because of not following through or failing to take action. Instead of just hitting “reply” or “like” on Facebook in response to a post about an unfortunate matter, send a sympathy card to the person in the mail with a supportive message or stop by their house. I like the ideas and advice mentioned in the above article. A Scripture verse also comes to mind in the Epistle of St. James, where he uses such an example in comparison to faith vs works. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17).
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Providing genuinely beneficial social support is much more difficult than we may like to believe. It does not matter whether someone is venting about a minor inconvenience or seeking advice for a relatively trivial issue… regardless of how seemingly insignificant the obstacle is from our perspective, the way we acknowledge and respond to other people’s needs matters. Showing up for the small, day-to-day challenges teaches the people in our lives that we have their best interests at heart and that our presence is reliable. If we can validate their feelings in the face of “common” forms of adversity, then they will be more inclined to trust our support when enduring more trying times. That being said, while we are always in control of our effort, as the blog post indicates we may not always be equipped to offer the appropriate support in certain situations. I think this can often be frustrating to accept. Not having the tools, the training, the level of understanding, or even sometimes just not being in a stable enough mental state to address and follow through on someone else’s hardships does not mean we are incompetent nor does it devalue us as friends/family members/romantic partners. In these instances, it is important for us to realize where our support falls short. Once we can evaluate our status in a position of support, we can be more honest to those seeking our help with what can do for them. As the blog mentions, many times this does not even need to be expressed verbally. As long as we are honest with our intentions and are actively executing the support we are prepared to give, then we are servicing the people around us in the most genuine way possible. When supporting people, it really does all come down to being genuine. Nothing is worse than realizing that people you value are only interested in your relationship when it conveniences them and, consequently, will only provide you with quick and meaningless support as a way of silencing/ridding themselves of the issue. This is harmful because it indirectly tells people that they are problematic and/or annoying and it is unfair because they are wasting their time opening up to someone who already decided they do not want to be a part of their solution-seeking/recovery. If you cannot comfort, listen, and aid someone through his/her struggle, guide the person to better resources. If at first you do not know of better resources, the least you can do is research some plausible alternatives.