BYU Counseling Director Steve Smith shared lessons he has learned about emulating the Savior to help alleviate others’ suffering during the June 29 devotional.
Smith said the call to alleviate suffering is one of the most challenging Christian duties. He shared experiences from his career as a psychologist that have caused him to feel inadequate in this call.
Throughout his career, Smith said he often counsels people who are facing the difficulties of life alone. Smith emphasized that even people with intact families will face hardships alone.
When Smith was a young therapist in training, he often felt inadequate to assist those he was counseling. “I remember being frightened by the intensity of the suffering some of my clients experienced. I sometimes wondered whether there was anything I could say or do to alleviate their pain,” Smith said.
The feelings of inadequacy are not uncommon and often shared by friends and family. “When friends or acquaintances experience intense spiritual difficulties or psychic isolation, those in their immediate sphere may feel inadequate, not knowing what to do,” Smith said.
It is important for people to stop and help others, even if they feel inadequate, Smith said. Stopping to help doesn’t just help others, but it can help ourselves.
“Our choices to help those in need can actually engender small changes in our character and give us greater confidence in our ability to be a compassionate disciple,” Smith said.
Smith said it is common to feel inadequate when trying to help others. “How do we find the courage to emulate the Savior and move forward when we believe our efforts are insufficient?” Smith asked.
He highlighted four ways people can emulate the Savior to offer aid or help to others.
Let go of human rating
He first encouraged people to let go of human rating. “Human rating is the belief that we can somehow accurately rate human beings as adequate or inadequate,” Smith said.
One common reason people don’t offer help occurs when they judge themselves or others. One way that this can occur is through social media. Social media can often falsely suggest that others’ lives are more glamorous, happier and more exciting than what people perceive. Smith cautioned that social media is now even more dangerous than advertising.
Show patience and respect
During a family camping trip, Smith watched how his two sons, Matt and Josh, exercised patience with the animals nearby. After an hour and a half, Josh called his dad over and showed him three titmice eating crumbs off of his hand.
“What is it about my sons that gives them this special skill?” Smith asked. “Observing them, I think they show patience and respect toward their animal friends. I observe them doing the same toward their human friends.”
Develop compassion and empathy
Compassion and empathy are also important ways people can understand the suffering of others. “Willingness to enter and understand suffering can be one of the most healing things we can do,” Smith said.
Smith’s daughter Brittany worked as an aid for students with severe and profound disabilities. He said Brittany worked hard to “suffer with” and show compassion for her students. During one class, a blind and deaf child grabbed a chunk out of Brittany’s hair. When Smith asked about the experience, Brittany said, “He can’t help it Dad. Imagine what his world must be like.”
Remember we are all in this together
Smith concluded by sharing his experiences on week-long survival trips through the desert. He said as groups went out, they experienced feelings that they were all in this together. Smith said he was humbled to watch others help each other on these journeys.
“The point of my address today is simply this: a humbling duty we have as disciples of Christ is that we can be His hands in helping make this happen. We can be there to pick others up, dry their tears and even heal their wounds.”