So many times a person is looking for comfort and Christians say "I'll pray for you." I've said "I hope it works out," or "I wish you the best..." but I don't see a non-religious equivalent.
Once, I was in my office, when a co-worker walked in and shut the door. He told me that his 1 1/2 year old grandson was diagnosed with leukemia.
Nearly in tears, he talked about the struggles the parents had. That he didn't know if the child would live. How the child was suffering and in pain-- and only a baby. I couldn't pretend to know what he was going through, though I felt truly sad hearing his story.
No words really seemed to fit. I did tell him that I had a cousin diagnosed with it as a child-- who survived, is an adult, and is doing well.
He stared at me-- waiting for the "I'll pray for you." I know, because he eventually said "Thanks for listening. I know you'll pray for me."
It wasn't the time to make a retort on that front, so I just nodded and let him go.
But, I've always wondered what is a good replacement phrase for the non-theist?
I'm so not good with that mushy stuff.
I'm not good with the mushy stuff, either; it feels insincere much of the time. But, when people are looking for comfort, I think just being there physically can be a great help. It may be a good substitute to thank them for sharing their pain and grief, and you have a better understanding of their struggle. That feels less like a platitude than saying "I'll pray for you" or "you're in my thoughts." But, when possible, I think actions really do speak louder than words, and finding a way to help, when appropriate, can make a huge difference (e.g., preparing a meal, providing transportation, looking after the pets for a few days while they are away at the hospital, etc.). Sometimes just being there and listening to them can be a great comfort, especially when it's an otherwise normal visit without all of the pity they are likely getting from everyone else; it can help restore some sense of normalcy and take their mind off their troubles.
I usually let them know my heart is hurting with them and I care for them and their family. Then give specific ways I can help like asking if they need help with rides to the doctor, need a babysitter, when I can cut the lawn, when I can bring over a meal. If it's a kid I like to know what their interests are and bring them a gift. People will be uncomfortable at first because they don't know what it's like to actually get something helpful rather than just a prayer that the person is going to forget to pray anyway. But hopefully eventually they will accept your kindess. Just be careful because then they'll just know you have a heart for Jesus, you just don't know it yet. palm to forehead
Wow! I am continually amazed at just how religious you Americans still are!? I think I would say "I really feel for you my friend and only wish that I could do more to help you, any time you need a chat, I'm here .
It's not as off pat as I will pray for you but it is more genuine because praying certainly won't help anyone, other than maybe to make the person doing the praying feeling like they've done something to help when actually they haven't.
I feel very much the other way around, that people who say things like I will pray for you are just trite and not really genuine. But then again I'm British and we just don't seem to be as religious as you folk !?
I tend to say, I will carry you in my heart, or put positive vibes into the universe. However prayer doesn't have to mean prayer to a god. I believe people purposefully sending positive thoughts, does make a difference, especially when many people do this. I have begun calling this prayer. I meditate about someone's healing or deliverance from difficult circumstances, and that, to me, is praying. It also makes it easier to not feel a need to explain my personal beliefs in the midst of someone else's pain.
I'm also one who would say I'm thinking of you and your family, or you and (fill in the blank) are in my thoughts. I may ask if there's something I can do for them, or let them know that I'm here for them if they need to talk. If I have their address, I'll send a Thinking of You card. If I'm in their presence, I will make some kind of physical contact, a touch, or a hug.
I just reply with, "You'll be in my thoughts." No one has said anything back to that yet. I know it doesn't seem as uplifting, but isn't that really what they're doing? I mean, prayer is usually done inside your head, so technically they're just thinking of you... or at least saying they will.
"I'm here for you" is probably the best I can come up with. Just being there for somebody, lending more than just your thoughts, can do a lot of good. Not everybody is great with words, so sometimes your presence or even a hug, can do so much more.
"I'll pray for you" infers that you're going to send out positive thoughts (prayers, wishes, etc) to God, right? So maybe because you don't believe in the "middle-man" here, you can just say that you will send them well wishes directly to them?
For me, I make sure to send as much positivity and love in their direction as possible, but I know that is not so easy for everyone. We all have our own ways of expressing ourselves and that is OKAY.
The simple act of thinking and speaking positively towards our surroundings has a massive effect on a molecular level. Scientifically speaking, it has been proven that we affect our environment directly just by the words and actions that we choose to carry out into the physical. Make your "prayer" to them in the form of kind words, affectionate actions, or even a loving embrace in the time of need.
You have the power to change someone's life, always.