“My friend didn’t feel sorry for me. She believed that I had the strength within me to recover and to grow. That was the kindest thing she could have done. That was her great gift.” (Helen Thomson)
These words from Helen Thomson epitomise the gift of care, rather than worry. As Fran and I explore in our book, the phrases “I worry about you” and “I care about you” are often used interchangeably, but there are three important differences.
When we care about a friend we are expressing our trust in their abilities, strengths, and resilience. We trust ourselves to support them as best we can, and others to contribute as they are able. We don’t feel we have to do it on our own, fix everything, or find all the answers. When we worry about a friend we express fear that they lack the resources to meet whatever challenges they are facing. We fear we don’t know what we are doing, that we will be found lacking, or not up to the task. We fear others won’t be around to contribute, and we will be left doing everything ourselves.
When we care we are focused on our friend’s needs and how best we can help them meet those needs. Worry is focused primarily on our own needs: our need to be perceived as loving and giving, or our need for the problem to go away as quickly as possible so we can get back to normal.
Worry dwells in the past (what has happened before in similar circumstances to us, to our friend, or to others) or the future (what might happen). Care attends to our friend’s needs in the present moment.