A long time ago, when I was still training as a breastfeeding counsellor, the idea of tolerating a child's discomfort came up. It is a phrase that has stuck with me, like a splinter, and I do not live comfortably with it. If my child came to me hungry, I would not tolerate their discomfort, but feed them. If they came to me bored, or hurt by a friend's rejection, or disappointed with a test result, will I tolerate this without trying to fix, and let them hurt, and grow?
If I can try to do something for someone, I tend to think I should: visit a lonely neighbour, attend a doctor's appointment with a nervous friend, find a babysitter so I can take my son to an evening lecture on birds. After all, who would ignore such a need? But I guess the need I end up ignoring is my own.
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares. (Out of Solitude: Henri Nouwen)