5 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Who Has Cancer

by | Jul 30, 2019 | Woman

Someone you know has cancer. You are stunned and at a loss for words. What is the right thing to say or do? I personally battle two types of cancer and have had numerous conversations with people over the past five years who, when hearing I have colorectal cancer and leukemia, have been quick to offer me their take on my situation. Though probably well-intentioned, sometimes their comments have come across as careless, heartless, flippant, arrogant and even accusatory. It’s not that people intend to say something wrong, but sometimes we throw out words before they have passed through the filter of “What is a loving and helpful thing to say here?”

Offering counsel to someone who is battling cancer isn’t really about being an expert or professional counselor. It’s about being a friend. It is also important we empathize with people—which means we need to surmise how they see their condition. Do they see it as a threat or loss? Other people who have processed their situation for a longer period of time may see their diagnosis as a challenge. In each case, words need to be spoken with the utmost care. Here are five things to avoid saying to anyone you encounter who is battling cancer. Avoiding these statements is a practical way to apply Proverbs 15:23 (NIV), “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word.”

“I know a woman who had the same thing, and she lived six months after they told her.”

I still try to figure out how this is helpful or in what world this could seem like a compassionate thing to say. If you say this—please apologize as soon as possible. Then ask your spouse to smack you, because this statement is unacceptable. One of the challenges of those facing cancer is staying positive and keeping emotionally healthy. They are more than likely worn out. Statements like this plants negative thoughts, sap energy and paint a bleak future. This statement offers no hope for the hurting.

“You’re just closer to heaven.”

This statement invalidates the person’s cancer and their battle. It demeans the person and their struggle. I would caution you to avoid flippantly throwing Bible verses out to those facing cancer. You need to earn the right to communicate at that level with people. God’s Word is powerful to change and comfort, but when used as a quick-fix pill, you end up insulting the other person.

“Have you tried this diet? You should stay away from … sugar, dairy and so on.” The person who says this is playing the role of expert, and their words come across as arrogant. Once again, think through your words before you speak them and ask, Do these sound compassionate? Am I speaking “quick fix” words?

“You’re going to be stronger for this.”

We don’t know why people go through what they do. We don’t know why some face cancer and others don’t. We don’t know the lessons to be learned. While probably true, this sounds flippant and void of compassion. Don’t be a miserable comforter.

“Don’t feel hopeless.”

Don’t be the feelings police, as if you have authority on appropriate feelings for situations. Instead, encourage the person to express their feelings. Don’t minimize the pain, loss or fear.

Heed the words of Dr. Gary Oliver, “Use tools such as empathy, of caring, of listening, of being there, of being present, sometimes of not even saying anything. These are the tools and the resources that … I’ve seen God use to soften hearts, to bring hope, to transform people.”

When you encounter people who battle cancer―and my friends, it’s a battle―understand the most effective thing you can do and say is to express and communicate love. When interacting with someone in crisis, you have an incredible opportunity to support and strengthen another person. You can actually give them hope and perspective. So, consider what you do and say.

To be honest, I am most comforted by the words “I love you” and a hug. Perhaps I am not alone.

Matthew Miklasz is a pastor and co-author with his wife, Cyndy, of the book Joy for the Journey: How to Walk through Life’s Trials in a Healthy Way. He studied theology at Trinity College of the Bible and was ordained with the EFCA in 2003. He and Cyndy are raising their four children on their hobby farm in Minnesota. For more information, visit mattnormalguy.com.

For more from Pastor Matt on his cancer journey as well as other “Hope Through Cancer” interviews, listen to the podcasts included with this article!

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Why America Must Adopt the Battle Cry of Isaiah

Why America Must Adopt the Battle Cry of Isaiah

A battle cry is used to summon armies to war. A loud, unified shout could intimidate the strongest of enemies. Confidence in battle often tilts the scale toward victory, whereas timidity, fear and cowardliness will surely lead to defeat. In these dreadful times, don’t...

Intentionally Raising a Godly Generation

Intentionally Raising a Godly Generation

Debbie put her faith in Christ at age 11. In fact, her whole family met Jesus at just about the same time. As her parents began growing in their faith, they nurtured growth in their children as well. Family Bible reading, prayer and talking about God’s leading in...

Dream Big: How to Cultivate Divine Revelation While You Sleep

Dream Big: How to Cultivate Divine Revelation While You Sleep

Do you have any dreams from God that you have allowed to fall by the wayside? For some of you, it’s time to dream again. For some of you, it’s time to dust off your previous dreams. For some of you, it’s important to realize God is not late; He’s always on time. For...

Prophecy: God Is Bringing About Swift Turnarounds

Prophecy: God Is Bringing About Swift Turnarounds

In the month of August, God is bringing swift turnarounds so that your hard places will become a wide-open field. God is bringing about divine connections in order to strengthen the body of Christ. He is releasing faith for radical generosity, divine strategy to...

End-Times Truth: The Rapture Reveals a Split Church

End-Times Truth: The Rapture Reveals a Split Church

There are several resurrections and raptures in the Bible. I cannot understand those who argue that because there is no mention of the word "rapture" in the Bible they do not believe in it. They only believe in the Second Coming of the Lord. Some arguments are no...

Charisma Highlights: 7 Abilities for a New Agility in This Era

Charisma Highlights: 7 Abilities for a New Agility in This Era

Following are snippets of the top stories posted on charismamag.com over the past week. We encourage you to visit the links to read the stories in full. 7 Abilities for a New Agility in This Era The Lord first began speaking to me about the release of seven abilities...

As a Believer, Have You Been Hiding During This Culture War?

As a Believer, Have You Been Hiding During This Culture War?

Many years ago, Jesus went up on a mountain, sat down, and spoke to the group he was with: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all...

RECENT ARTICLES

10 Traits of Effective Churches During the Global Pandemic

In the past few years, the global pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of many local churches. Friends from around the world have told me that many churches have closed their doors for good. Although...
The Supernatural Secrets of Real Revival

The Supernatural Secrets of Real Revival

What does an authentic world-igniting revival look like? And, how are the seeds of revival planted? This we can learn from the life and work of William Joseph Seymour—God’s chosen vessel and apostle of the Azusa Street Revival.  Bishop William Joseph Seymour, was a...

Spiritually Speaking, How Healthy Is Your Heart?

Spiritually Speaking, How Healthy Is Your Heart?

Once a year, I go to the doctor and get a check-up. And every time, one of the things they do is check my heart. A good thorough exam will reveal if there are any problems that need to be addressed before a heart condition arises. I believe we need to do the same...

How You Can Begin to Heal From Unanswered Prayer

How You Can Begin to Heal From Unanswered Prayer

The best way to grow in the prophetic is to look at the past. As backwards as that sounds, Revelation 19:10 tells us, “For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.” In other translations, this is said, “For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness...

Living in the Tension of Two Distinct Worlds

Living in the Tension of Two Distinct Worlds

As a professional counselor, I have consoled hundreds of Christians through some of the most horrific life circumstances. Along with experiencing my own trials in life, it has caused me to deeply ponder the words of Scripture that refer to how we must learn to live in...

Kingdom Economics: Who Do You Trust?

Kingdom Economics: Who Do You Trust?

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its first of three estimates for second quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Second-quarter inflation-adjusted (real) GDP fell at an annual rate of 0.9%, compared to a drop of 1.6% in the first quarter, and pre-report...

Pin It on Pinterest

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]