I recently joined a Facebook group for Christian women who are breast cancer survivors. Many of the members are currently in treatment though a number of them, like myself have been cancer-free for a number of years and our primary purpose is to help and encourage those who are where we have been.
I do not think a day goes by when a frightened woman who has been newly diagnosed joins the group. We are saddened whenever someone is diagnosed with this terrible disease but at the same time, we are very glad they have found us. God is always with us but it is comforting to talk to people who understand your turmoil and can not only pray for you but also share with you the things that helped you along the way.
Yesterday a woman timidly asked if it was "un-Christian" for her to not share all the details of her diagnosis with her sister-in-law. It seems that her sister-in-law was constantly asking her questions about what stage she was and so forth. At this point, the poor woman didn't even know herself as her biopsy is scheduled for later this week!
Even if she had the answers, she just wasn't quite sure how much she wanted to share with her sister-in-law. At the same time, she did not want to come across as being rude or hurt her sister-in-law either. She did not know why her sister-in-law needed to know everything and she recognized that she was beginning to resent her.
The overwhelming response from the group, in fact the only response from the group was that her sister-in-law was out of line. She was under no obligation to share personal information if she did not wish to do so. I shared with her my personal favorite for dealing with people who don't seem to get a gentle hint the first time. Rather than answer their question, I give them a good hard stare for a minute or two. Then I change the subject and act like I never heard their question in the first place. Most people get the message and follow my lead and the few that don't, well, that is their problem not mine and I probably won't be chatting with them for awhile if I can help it.
As a cancer survivor, I have often had people ask me how they can broach the subject with their loved one or friend. The answer is simple. You listen more than you talk. A surprising number of people do want to talk about it but they do not want your advice or even your sympathy. They simply want you to listen to their questions, their feelings and yes, even their fears. When you quietly sit beside them and listen, you are telling them that they matter and that you care about them.
There is a fine line between a healthy desire to know (so that you know how to pray and provide support) and nosiness. If we want to try to avoid crossing that line, it is important to let the person guide the conversation and you follow. You will gain much information by simply listening and often, when someone knows they have a genuine listener, they are much more comfortable about opening up.
Finally, we must remember that we do not want everyone to know everything about everything all of the time and in fact, they don't need to! That is the same for everyone else. We really do not need to know everything about everything all of the time. While we might not know all of the details all of the time, we know that God does and quite frankly, He is the one who really does know!