Few video games have captured my attention as much as Final Fantasy Seven has. Now that I have completed my first play through of the Final Fantasy VII Remake, I can boldly declare that it has surpassed my hopes. In the updated version, not only do we discover the personalities of formerly incidental characters, but we are given the chance to empathize with Cloud on a deeper level.
Cloud is living with the trauma of his past. As a former soldier, he was changed by unethical experiments and made to do things that left him scarred. On the surface, he seems like an detached mercenary who cares only for the money he receives for helping the terrorist group, Avalanche, but I found myself feeling for him and his difficult situation. Watching how Cloud’s friends interact with him reminded me of some life lessons I have had to learn the hard way.Never judge a person’s desperate situation until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
Learning empathy has become a life quest for me. In my younger years, caring for the plight of others was elusive, but intense personal struggles have changed that. After the birth of my first son, my dear wife discovered that she had bipolar disorder. She slipped into a hypo-manic state and was not acting like herself. She felt that she was happier than ever, but her actions told another story. Lack of sleep and erratic behavior came to a dramatic head as she was forced to spend some time in a mental health ward until her emotions got into a proper balance. Only a few short years later, when our second son was born, the situation was even worse. A dangerous depression took over and this time the stay in the mental health ward lasted months. She was dangerously suicidal and needed the help of medicine to recover.
Through it all, I learned much about mental illness, but best of all, I learned empathy. Never judge a person’s desperate situation until you have walked a mile in their shoes. The greatest lesson came from the amazing friends in my life who knew just how to comfort us through the greatest struggle of our lives. Whether it was intentional or not, the friends of Cloud in FF7 Remake reminded me of these friends. Here are a few things for all of us to consider if we find ourselves at a loss when seeking to help friends through a time of trial.
Don’t pretend that everything is alright. This is true of any desperate situation, but is especially true of mental illness. Cloud’s friends do not walk around on egg -shells or treat him like a ticking time bomb. They don’t avoid him or whisper behind his back. They know from being around him that something is wrong, but they don’t bombard him with a million questions. They are just there for him with a smile and a positive spirit, or as in the case of Avalance leader, Barret, a well meaning snide remark.
Stay positive. Show that you care and say that you are sorry, but express that you still believe things are going to get better. Every single scene with Aerith, her laugh and smile are infectious. I try to be that way as much as I can when I am around hurting people. Don’t feel like you have to be sullen and sad all of the time. Your smiles and occasional jokes may just keep your hurting friend from giving up completely.
Don’t try to fix anything. A hurting friend does not need advice or solutions. There was a time in my life that I suffered from migraine headaches and without fail, nearly every person in my life offered some type of amazing solution that had worked for someone they knew. I know advice comes from a desire to help, but in my case, it just frustrated me. Tifa is an old friend of Cloud’s but never once does she offer perfect solutions to his pain. “I told you so”, or “What did you expect” are things she never says and we should follow that example.
Be ready to listen. There will come a time when a hurting friend will want to share the pain with you. It may even come to a point where you are tired of hearing it, but listen all the same. When you listen, the load of pain is shared and you become a burden bearer. Trust me, there is no worse feeling than loneliness when going through the struggle of your life.
All these pointers can be seen in the lives of Tifa, Barret and Aerith as they interact with Cloud, but there is one more important element that I will mention from my own experience. Above all, pray with the person. If you, like me, believe in a God who cares, sit down and pray with your suffering friend. Ask God for help, unloading all of the pain. It was my faith in a caring God that finally pulled me up from the pit of despair and showed me the light of a better future.
I like to think that there is hope for Cloud to recover from his traumatic past. My wife and I have found healing with the help of good, supportive friends and in the hands of a loving, caring God.