Question 1:
Dear Lauren,

I really want to make the world a better place and bring more light and good to the world, but many times, when I listen to people who tell me about their problems, I don't know how to help. I can spend hours thinking about how I could help, but I can’t think of any practical advice or solutions to help. I don't want to say something that could be bad advice or something that increases the problem.

For example, I have a friend who had and I think she still has bulimia and/or anorexia… I have a brother that I think is a little depressed…he fights with my parents about everything and when they suggest that he go to a therapist he doesn't want! Also at my work there is a woman who always tells me her personal problems…. These examples are for you to understand and see that sometimes it’s difficult for me to find practical solutions. Could you please tell me some advice/ solutions and also tips for how to help others? Please answer me, because I think it would be helpful for me and for all readers, to make the world a warmer and more compassionate place!

Question 2:
Dear Lauren,

So many bad things are happening in the world and I'm the type of person that when I hear stories that people got killed or something like that I start crying and I feel their pain. But recently, when every day there's another tragic story I'm just like, what should I do already? I'm getting desensitized maybe, I don't know, it still hurts me but I'm like what's the point? Should I break down every time I hear something? Should I shrug it off? I'm tired of feeling like I have to feel depressed every time something happens, and be all sad for the rest of the day (which is now like every day) but I feel like a jerk if I act like it doesn't matter to me. I'm just so confused how I should feel about all this.

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

Do you know why I put your two questions together? Because I find both of you so inspiring. Both of you young people are confronted with evil and difficulties and pain in the world, and you both want to help! Personally, I think that your desire to help is what God wants from you. That’s your contribution to goodness and light in the world.

God knows you’re just a teenager. God knows you’re not a therapist. God also knows you’re not an ambassador, a prime minister, or a president. The key is for you to (a) want to help people; and (b) to just be there for the people closest to you.

For your friend whom you think has an eating disorder: just be nice to her. You can try to convince her to go to a therapist, talk to her teachers and her parents about it, but that’s really all you can do. You can’t put her in handcuffs and drag her to a therapist’s office.

I had a friend with anorexia when I was 16. When she was 18, my parents and her parents conspired together to kidnap her and take her to a psychiatric emergency room. They knew she would die of starvation if they left her alone. When they “ambushed” her in her apartment, the only food in the apartment was salt.

They took her to the emergency room, and THEN, because she was 18 years old, and not a minor anymore, after 24 hours she was able to sign herself out, which she did. They tried to save her. And they were adults. I’m sorry to tell you that she died a few years later.

What’s my point? You do what you can. But you can’t do more than you’re able to do.

Your brother who seems depressed and fights with your parents? Just be there for him. Show him that you care about him. Say “Good morning,” “Good night,” “Hi!” “I’m here for you if you need anything,” “I care about you.” Listen to him. You could try to convince him to go to a therapist, but if he refuses to go, at least you’ll know you did what you could.

Your co-worker? Just listen. Most people just want to know that someone cares. Most people just want other people to be there for them.

Sometimes I have clients who really just want me to listen. They don’t want solutions. They just want to know that someone cares. Sometimes that is the intervention. My caring about them and listening to them sometimes gives them the strength that they need to ask me for more help. Just be there for the suffering, pained people in your life. That’s all God wants from you.

In terms of feeling for the pain of everyone in the world, it’s a balance. Of course we should feel the pain of others. And, yet, of course we can’t walk around gloomy and depressed all the time – God certainly doesn’t want that! In Psalms it says, “This is the day that I created; be happy and rejoice in it!” God knew there would be bad things going on in the world – and He still commands us to be happy people. We don’t have to walk around depressed because of the state of the world. We should feel the pain, certainly. But then it’s okay to move on and live our lives.

We just have to be there for the people around us. And, often, it’s not doing anything in particular for them – just showing up, showing them that we care, offering a smile and a kind word. Not a kind word of advice, necessarily. Just a kind word: “I hear you.” “I’m here for you.” “I see you.” “I feel your pain.” “If I can help, I want to.”

I’m inspired by you both.