To Be or Not to Be a Buffer

bufferA human buffer.

The day my patient in the Intensive Care unit was dying, I found myself acting as a buffer between the mother, son, and daughter. When all three of them were in the room, the air was rife with tension. The problem was between the son and daughter, and mom was caught between her offspring.

I learned that if both (adult) children wanted to be in the room, it worked best if I was there, too. This prohibited the siblings from speaking harshly to each other. It kept mom from needing to choose sides between her offspring, and it kept a semblance of peace for the elderly man as he lay dying. I filled the role of protector for my patient, barrier between the siblings, and buffer for all in the room. The waves of tension were less harsh, more muffled because I was there. I watched as mom became visibly relaxed when I entered the room, and I stayed as much as I could when both siblings were present. My very presence kept the hostility between siblings in check even though I didn’t say or do anything profound. That’s what a buffer does.


A buffer can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, a buffer is:

  • any of various devices or pieces of material for reducing shock or damage due to contact
  • a means or device used as a cushion against the shock of fluctuations in business or financial activity
  • something that serves as a protective barrier: such as a person who shields another especially from annoying routine matters

As a verb, a buffer means:

  • to lesson the shock of; cushion
  • to treat (something, such as an acid solution) with a buffer also to prepare (aspirin) with an antacid
  • to collect (data) in a buffer

bufferWhy a buffer

There are times when we need this cushion. Sometimes it is to protect us from someone else; other times it’s to protect folks from us! Having an unbiased party in the room provides a protection or a cushion, and many times keeps someone from saying or acting in ways that are hurtful just because a third party is there. A buffer provides a shield and sometimes even a defender. It can be a cushion, deflecting harshness in others.

When we are going into a difficult situation and we know things might be tense, it is wise to have someone who is neutral go with us. They can act as a barrier from a hurtful person; their presence brings security, stability, and strength. Ask someone to be your buffer!

When we act as a buffer, we are exhibiting the character of God. Psalm 18 tells us that God is our defender, our refuge, our shield, protector, strength and help. We are all of these when we act as a buffer for someone.

How to be a buffer

When we are asked to be a buffer, there are some things we need to remember.

  • details in the moment are not necessary
  • ask questions later (if necessary), and not in the moment
  • be a shield to provide damage control; you don’t have to be in total agreement
  • your presence is sometimes enough; you don’t need to say a word
  • do not confront; do not judge; just be there!
  • stick around; don’t leave, even if you think things are going okay
  • be a refuge, a place of safety

Our purpose in being a buffer is to bring safety and protection. Our presence can create a diversion and a safety net. Be willing to be available to provide support and strength when it is needed.

Recognizing the need = strength

Recognizing the need of a buffer is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. Recognizing the potential for harm or hurt and taking steps to thwart Satan’s attempts is part of wisdom and not of fear. Let God be your protection and refuge through people who can walk with you when you are weak. In doing so, you will find help, healing, and strength.

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