Don't ask if you really don't want to know. Don't tell if you really don't want them to know.
So, in our chaplain training we learned about some simple questions we might often ask a patient when assessing their understanding of their possible stroke. We chaplains receive a printed notice to go talk to a patient about their stroke and we go to assess it. It's a fairly straight forward formula:
1. what brought you to the hospital or why are you here? (their understanding of their diagnosis)
2. what are the docs saying about how long you'll be here or what is the next step? (their understanding of their prognosis)
3. who is your support group - you know, family? friends? (support systems)
4. what kind of faith community includes you - church? other? (faith community)
After we have the "assessment" chat, this also opens up the discussion for other kinds of topics as per whatever the patient/family might have on their minds and hearts.
I learned yesterday that this formula doesn't really help in Behavioral Health. Don't ask unless why they are here unless you want to see the self-inflicted wound and staples along the wrist which are accompanied by bruising where the police had to restrain him to get him in the ambulance. I don't think that having the patient re-live that whole scene was particularly helpful for his spiritual health, but then again, he freely told me. And told me. And told me. And told me.
So perhaps I served as a loving listener, but I did find myself feeling annoyed after about 20 minutes of it. I was afraid that I was going to slit my wrist if I heard the story one more time. But I wasn't going to tell him that.
Something to learn there. Something about boundaries? Something about manipulation? Something about being a door mat? I think I'll pray about this one.
After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer." Mark 9:28-30
What is best left unasked, untold in this moment?