Listen: Mike Foster chats to Duncan and Laura on how to help a friend through tough times
When someone we love is struggling in life, whether it’s with tough emotions, mental health issues, addiction or grief, we can often feel inadequate to help.
But it shouldn’t be that way, says writer and pastor Mike Foster.
Author of Graceonomics and People of the Second Chance, and the founder of the ‘Rescue Academy’, Mike spends much of his time teaching people that they do have what it takes to help a struggling friend.
Participants in his Rescue Academy course are affectionately labelled ‘Rescuers’, and the aim of the course, according to Mike, is to help people to be ‘better heart-handlers’.
He believes it’s simpler than we think.
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Love and Acceptance is the Starting Point
Helping people get through tough times, says Mike, centres around one key ingredient: unconditional love.
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“A lot of us find our self in situations where we know someone who’s struggling, and we don’t really know what to do,” Mike told Hope 103.2’s Laura and Duncan. “Sometimes we tend to over-complexify things and think we have to have the right answer, or do the exact right thing, or have the right Bible verse to help someone.
“But I like to encourage people that love is the framework for all transformational change.
“As we engage with people no matter whether they’re in grief or depression or shame, we always want to meet them with love and radical acceptance. That is the starting point. We’re not there to fix people, we’re there to love people. That’s my first principleI like to give people.”
Replacing Shame with Truth
By showing people love and acceptance, we can begin to help them to unravel negative emotions such as shame that are at the heart of a lot of human suffering.
“A lot of times so many of the dysfunctions we see in people and in ourselves are all part of what I call this ‘shame engine’, that is churning out negative emotions and belief about ourself,” he said.
“In a recent survey of Christians most people believed that God was disappointed in them.”
“People even have negative beliefs about what God thinks about us. In a recent survey of Christians most people believed that God was disappointed in them. There’s this sense of us always feeling like we’re not doing enough or that we’re unworthy of love or not good enough.
“What I like to do with people is start with those core identity things of who you are: made in the image of God; you are His beloved.”
Guilt and Shame Will Never Bring Change
Mike says it’s important when trying to help someone, not to communicate guilt or judgment about their choices and struggles.
“Guilt is never a motivating factor for people,” he said. “We can’t guilt people to change. Although guilt is a natural thing when we violate our principals, and that can be a conduit for good next steps towards freedom. But shame, on the other hand, is a very destructive force. It blocks freedom and growth.”
The First Step to Transforming Yourself
Mike, whose books and courses are put together in creative, simple ways with practical self-reflection exercises, teaches his course participants to not only look for ways to help others—but to get reflective and see how they can improve in their own life, too.
“We can’t change if we’re not even aware of the dysfunctions we’re experiencing,” he said.
“The busyness of life really blocks us from really looking inside our heart and our pain and hurts.”
“I encourage people to slow down, put on the brakes, take a deep breath and begin to take a journey and look inside their heart and think, ‘What are my fears that may not be in alignment with what God says about me?’ ‘What are some things I’m doing right now that might be destructive in my life?’
“The busyness of life really blocks us from really looking inside our heart and our pain and hurts. They’re the things that need feeling.
“The first step to freedom is awareness and awareness comes by slowing down.”
He adds that nobody needs a PhD or a perfect life to be able to help others, and that he sees his work as “equipping people to embrace their not-so-perfect stories”.
To find out more about Mike Foster’s books or his Rescue Academy course, visit Secondchance.org.