About the Author

Molly is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. She received her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Bethel Seminary San Diego and returned to Bethel as an adjunct professor in the MFT program. Her book is Restoring Relationship: Transforming Fear into Love Through Connection.

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  1. Molly,

    So sorry you had to deal with that almost alone. Wish I could have been around for you. There would have been a hug & a gentle ear to listen to your problems. People are scared to let their emotions out & be exposed. More likely they don’t know what to say in that situation. Being a HSP & having empathy for others I would be there for you & not say anything. I would have been Jesus in Human form offering you a loving connection.

    Blessings 🙂

  2. Thank you. I so needed to read your words this morning. God Bless You with better health and strength! In His Mighty Love

  3. Molly you are so brave to share your story with what you have been through. To do with your Breasts Cancer. Jesus took you through the other side you are still able to smile today and here you are telling your story of what you went through. I didn’t have Cancer. But I took seizures because of my periods being so so heavy and they cause my hormones to go up the left throw me into seizures. That I was so on well. That three years ago past in the month October I had to have a hysterectomy. I didn’t ever want kids. Not that I didn’t like kids just not brave to give birth. Love my sister’s kids. Was a Registered Childminder for 19 years. But I do not know we’re I got this saying but it so true and along with prayer from my Church and good friends. I went through the operation with no trouble at all. I have only had one small very tiny seizure since after my operation. Why I had that seizure was my bad getting used to having no periods any more. I am feeling so much better and looking so much better for have the operation. God took me through it with no trouble at all. The saying I went to the operation was the day before. “Don’t worry about tomorrow God is already there”. That was so true God was already there he took me through my operation and to the other side to were I am today seizure free. Praise the Lord. I am so thank full for that. I so glad I had the operation. I put my trust in God to guide the Lady Doctor doing the operation who to me looked no more than in her twentys. I met her before my operation. She was just lovely. The lady Doctor said I will be doing your operation today. She did look so young. I said to myself. I trust you into God’s hands. Look at you today Molly. God has you Molly still here to smile and tell your story. That is amazing. That tell me we have one amazing God. Who does love us so much. That he does take care of us. I didn’t worry about going to have my operation. My family said do you realize you just had a big operation. Your taking it far to cam. It a big operation you just had. I said yes. I said to myself it was no big deal. Nor it was. Because I had God with me through it all at my side all the way. My Family not saved. So if I had of said yes I do realize it was a big operation. But I had God with me at my side through it all as well. They would have looked at me and thought I was nuts. You were asleep they would have said. So how would you know God was with you through it all. I just did and I felt God’s presence in the room before I was put to sleep before the operation. Our God is a great big God. Love you telling your story Molly love you all incourage. Pray for you all. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xxxxx

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this perspective and reminding me that it’s ok to not say anything reassuring when someone is sharing their struggles. Sitting in silence with someone gives them the space to have their feelings and share them if they are comfortable.

  5. Oh, how I needed to read your words as I head off to my second oncology appointment later today. Cancer during Covid is hard, and, like you, my breast cancer was caught early. I’ve had three surgeries and am blessed that I don’t need radiation or chemo, but it doesn’t change the fact that I need time to grieve and heal, and this all feels like a long, hard journey. I think I have been minimizing my feelings for most of my friends and family because everything feels harder right now, and I don’t want to add to that burden. Thank you for the reminder about what a gift vulnerability can be and how it can open us to better connections with others. I wish you healing and hope and God’s comfort in the times you feel alone.

    • Hope, I’m glad this message met you where you are in your journey. I agree that this context made it even more challenging not to minimize the impact of our diagnosis and treatment. Wishing you a full recovery, and companions for the journey who come alongside with comfort.

      • Thank you. I wish the same for you. I was thinking again of one of the best blessings during my journey: My primary surgeon also happened to be a dear friend of mine, and so for two of my three surgeries, I had the blessing of a friend who came and prayed with me right before the surgery and stood with me right in the OR.

  6. Molly I am so very sorry that the very friends, family and social worker weren’t there for you emotionally. I had my own scare years ago, and at the time I was told be positive – well I was afraid – two sisters before me and our mother, all with diagnosis of breast cancer. My husband at the time said little and my best friend talked the whole time while I waited for surgery. I discovered many are afraid of the “C” word, let alone say “cancer”. They will do anything to skirt the issue, much like people who minimized your vulnerability and changed the subject. My heart goes out to you and I hope that your treatment has had a positive effect on your health, even though it’s gruelling and that you are well on the road to recovery. Blessings, Cathy

    • Thank you for your message, Cathy. Sadly, minimizing is pervasive, and I’m sorry to hear you also experienced it during your journey with cancer. Thankfully, treatment has gone well and the issues I’m still dealing with don’t have a big impact day-to-day. I hope the same is true for you!

      I’m motivated to continue to write about this so more people are both aware of the common tendency to minimize, and can learn how to be the comforting presence we all need in times of distress.

      Warmly,
      Molly

  7. Reading your message stunned me as I find myself in a very similar situation, navigating a diagnosis that seems to be minimized at every turn. Sometimes when we are so utterly alone, we truly feel His presence. I wonder is that what this is about..this illness that seems to have captured my life..to draw closer and lose fear of what may lie ahead. Many moments of sadness and loss for a time I took for granted. Although I had pain from autoimmune illness for decades..losing my breasts and not knowing what path to choose..reconstruction and further surgeries has left me confused and alone and feeling very minimized. Thank you for your honesty

    • Debbie, thank you for your message. I’m sorry to hear about your journey. Despite feeling the impact of minimizing throughout my follow-up care, I’m still disappointed and grieved to see how pervasive it is. I’ll continue to write about it, hoping that more people recognize this common reaction. These types of situations prompted me to write my book…Sadly, this validates the purpose of it!

      I wish you comfort from God’s loving presence, clarity for decisions, and tenderness for the times you are lonely.

      Warmly,
      Molly

  8. Thank you for pointing out the tendency to minimize and what it does to others and ourselves. Sometimes when we want to reassure someone, we unintentionally minimize their feelings and experiences. This article has made me more aware of that and I hope to do better myself in empathizing with others in the future. Also, it reminded me that I have a right to speak up for myself in matters regarding health care and my emotional needs.

    • I’m glad this was helpful, Kathy. I love that you feel empowered to speak for your needs. There’s no doubt we all minimize distress – our own and others’ – and awareness is the first step in shifting to a more compassionate response. Thank you for your comment!

  9. This a powerful post–because you share your vulnerability, because I am a retired RN and appreciate the perspective from the patient’s point of view and because I am doing a book study by Michelle C that shares her long journey through cancer. You are right on point when as you share minimizing any difficult situation–especially using trite platitudes. Michelle said well meaning Christians made her want to scream. Jesus entered into our pain and difficulty. In the Old Testament when Elijah was ready to give up–God entered into his distress. May we all remember how to share the load in a way that is significant to the person in need. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for your comments, Carol. Unfortunately, minimizing is just one of the many reactions to distress that add to a person’s burdens. Recognizing the disconnect between Jesus’ loving compassion and our tendency to minimize, etc. prompted me to write my book. Warmly, Molly

  10. Molly,

    Thank you for sharing. My spirit/soul needed to hear this, probably for a very long time.

    I pray for your strength and complete healing.

  11. Molly,
    I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through. I totally understand the ignorance of people’s responses to our cancer diagnosis. My husband was diagnosed with melanoma back in July ’05. My mother-in-law doesn’t worry about anything & kept an upbeat attitude & just kept saying in a cheerful tone “everything is going to be just fine!” Well, it wasn’t. My husband was stage 4 & the spot was on his right side of his eye. Thankfully he still has his sight but the doctor had to cut all of the nerves on that side of my sweet husband’s face. Also the cancer had spread to his lungs. He endured countless surgeries including plastic surgery & also radiation. I’m so thankful to say that now ’15 years later he is a miracle man. I wish the family would have been more sympathetic & loving instead of trying to minimize what we were going thru. It really hurts. My husband & I are strong Christians & this brought us incredibly close. I’m thankful to the surgeons & of course most of all to our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Sometimes when a family member or friend has a hard situation it’s better to hold them & listen to them rather than trying to give advice.

    My love & sympathy to you for all you’re going thru & have gone thru. Lord bless you with His grace & love!

    • I’m sorry to hear about the added burden of minimizing during the difficult season with your husband’s illness. So happy he recovered, and that the two of you drew closer to one another and God. Thank you for your prayers and support!

  12. “They mean well”… one of the phrases I hate to hear people say. So now you’ve dealt with a person who is minimizing your pain along with ANOTHER person minimizing your pain by sticking up for the initial minimizer…. If you get what I mean.

    If I can learn not to get annoyed and hurt by these people, and make it about the log in my own eye: “remember not to say that to other people.” Thank you.

    • Yes! The minimizing is layered. Learning not to do this to ourselves and others is a process and a practice. I wrote a book about it! If you are interested, you can sign up for emails at my website and receive a free outline of the spiritual practice I teach. Thanks for connecting.

      • Thank you Molly, and I signed up!

        I read something years ago that was a good start for me in not minimizing. Unfortunately, once in a while it slips through my lips, and as soon as I do, I think oh no! I learned: Never start a sentence with “at least…” That usually minimizes whatever the person is telling you.

        And unfortunately, I have learned not to tell personal things to some friends because their go-to reply is usually minimizing.

        Even when I have mentioned this to people, they continue to minimize. It seems like it’s either a bad habit or people just don’t stop and think before they speak.

        Thank you again!

  13. I had breast cancer in 2017. Just had to do a lumpectomy and six weeks of daily radiation. Compared to my mom’s mastectomy and six months of chemo, my experience wasn’t too bad. I had many blessings along the journey. The hospital and cancer center are across the street from my apartment. When I was going through radiation, I would leave work early (I lived about two miles from the office), get my treatment and go home. The worst symptom I had was my left armpit turning into raw meat by the end of treatment and fatigue. I’m sorry you didn’t feel comfortable with some of the medical staff you dealt with. The hospital and cancer center here were just amazing. Getting the radiation treatments actually was made more fun by the staff and rocking out to the music during the treatment. (I was told to hold still a few times LOL) I had have a little more than two years and then I can stop taking Exemestane. Hope you continue on your journey feeling great!

  14. Molly, I am so sorry you had to face this on your own. And I know the Lord was with you, but an empathetic human would have been nice. I am shuffling through my mind to see if I have left, or am leaving, someone I know on their own and hurting. Lord, please point me in their direction.

  15. Your statements should be shared everywhere. What a warrior you are, and a testament for our Lord and King, Jesus! Shame on them for not raising the thermostat and stationing a woman with you. God bless you, and thanks.

  16. This helps me to pause and remember Jesus is always with me. I look back to distressful periods in my life and only when I let go of control, trying to force the outcome, did the peace of God overcome my fear. Also the outcome of the distressful circumstances was less troublesome than my imagined outcome.

  17. I tend to listen to and hold the vulnerability of others, but minimalize my own. Partly because this is how I was raised. My mom minimalized our pain and emotions and told us it could be worse.

    • Yours is a familiar experience, Theresa. Parents mean well; they want to protect us from pain. I have a section on my website where I talk about why we avoid vulnerability. It might be of interest! You’ll find me at mollylacroix.com. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Thank you Molly. I found your article ‘spot on’ and it clearly showed a culture of ‘hoping for the best’ or positive thinking but it shuts out the reality of many conditions that may lead to grave illness, great suffering, pain, grief and loss and a walk through the unknown.
    I agree that ‘minimising’ a condition or the possible dark or difficult future is hurtful and if its a reply like ‘it will be OK’ its too flippant a reply and sets a vulnerable person up for further heartache.
    In my own experience of shock, sorrow or grief I have found God can comfort us in the depths of our heart at the cross after some of the shock has passed, but if there are friends, pastoral care workers or others who will stand with us or walk with us through the uncertainty and trail, then those people are balm to the soul.
    When I started pastoral care training I was taught to listen and allow the person to share their experience or life story and feelings and not to include my own thoughts, opinion nor to offer false assurance, but to let that person have space to share, while we share the burden with them. This was direct turn around from rushing in and reassuring or trying to outguess God’s will. I realised I needed to really learn to listen. We were also told to not minimise a health situation but be there as a presence for the Lord and care.

    Over time I have learnt what really helps others is to have an empathetic listener, and to have the other ‘stronger’ person help uphold us in time of need. To offer prayer to bring the person and need to the Throne of Grace, while the vulnerable person comes to grips with a crisis and unknown future. Once there is a committing and surrendering of the situation to the Lord in prayer and grappling with ‘not my will but His be done’ then there is room for reality set in, and the vulnerable person can start to accept the changes in stages and prepare for any loss of grief and to set feet on a new path of the unknown.
    It really matters for the vulnerable person to be able to express fear, doubt or just want someone else with them to share the stress and pain – but no one wants a person ‘out of tune’ who minimisers.
    God may do a miracle (as He often does) or give partial healing or use doctors for full recovery, or the disease may increase but He reaches down as the Great Physician to heal or to soothe us and Give His peace that passes all understanding.
    It is a pity our culture has been on a fast treadmill till COVID and we had years of rushing and not listening. Now though we have time to reflect and work on listening skills and how to support others.
    Thank you so much for writing such a honest and helpful article. I am sorry no one was there with more truthful version of how it might be for you. Your article also helped me as I have had a few encounters with minimisers or promises of healing but it is God Himself who knows he way ahead for us – we just hold His hand and trust Him after we do some wrestling with Him and or faith.

  19. Oh have you stepped on my toes! I am a minimizer who thought minimizing was encouragement. Thank you, thank you, thank you for opening my eyes to another perspective! May I give up the phrase “at least….” not just for lent but for a lifetime of being present with my hurting friends & neighbors.

  20. Thank you Molly for putting into words your experience with breast cancer. Mine mirrors yours. DCIS – was discovered on both sides last year. I had not previously thought about the consequences of “minimizing my experience”. My radiation preparation included only males and treatment each day included men – I felt so unprepared and awkward. I thanked God each time He made himself known. Thank you for “naming” my emotional experience.

    • Sandy, I’m sorry to hear about your experience. Thankfully, it’s never too late to acknowledge the vulnerability of an experience. When we do, it releases a burden we’ve held, helping us heal emotionally as we heal physically. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Your article made me think, have I done the same thing? Out of my discomfort minimilized something instead of validating that persons fear and giving them support and comfort. I will try instead to give that person validation of what they must be feeling, and offer a prayer, a hug and my time.

  22. I believe that you were not minimizing at all–but the person you were talking to–felt vulnerable and inadequate to respond to your needs. I read a book by Michelle Cushatt–a strong Christian who experienced the very same thing. When platitudes were offered–she wanted to say “thaaat’s niiiice” and had to grit her teeth. She shared the story of Elijah, who after doing God’s will, had the ruler after him. He walked 250 miles and hid in a cave–and expressed clearly his despair. God–touched him and fed him. Michelle said that is what she needed. I had a friend who expressed it this way–“sometimes we need Jesus with skin on”–in other words God’s heart and hands in His people.

  23. Molly, thank you for sharing your story and putting into words such a painful relational issue: minimizing vulnerability. As I read your story, I thought about what it would have looked like if your encounter with the social worker had been different…

    What if she could have greeted you with a presence that conveyed, “I see you.” What if she could have looked you in the eyes and said, “this is a big day for you, how are you doing?” And then really listened… how might that have changed your experience that day, and beyond?

    Thank you for sharing your story of fear, courage and healing.

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