Advice from the New York Times

Date: April 13, 2023

From time to time, there is an article that I read that I feel is so utterly wise. It was from the Subscriber Only Well Newsletter. It was called “Helped, Heard, or Hugged? When someone you love is upset, ask this one question”. It was a fabulous article. Sometimes in a community, two people meet up. One is frustrated with something that is going on. The other receives the frustration. The question that should asked, asserts this article, is this: “Do you want to be helped, heard or hugged?”

Sometimes you don’t want the other person to solve the problem – so help is not what is needed. Instead, you just want to be heard. Sometimes the issue is so personal and close, you certainly don’t want to be helped or heard, you just want to be hugged (while a hug might send the wrong signal, a handshake might be more appropriate). And yes sometimes, the cry for help wants counsel or advice. Then and only then, do you offer help.

At this season in the semester, this is advice every educational community needs to hear. Tensions are high. Issues are significant. Friends and colleagues will complain. The right thing to do is to respond: “Do you want to be helped, heard, or hugged?”

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary and President of The General Theological Seminary

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