Tuesday, October 11, 2011
It happened a number of years ago in a meeting. All those present had been Christians for many years. All were church leaders. One man present was having a difficult time on a number of fronts. He began to express this to the group. Finally he stopped talking. The group was silent. Finally the chairman said, “The next item on the agenda is ….”I think this is a bit overboard. For one thing, pouring your heart out at a business meeting is wholly inappropriate. That is not said to demean one's personal issues - it is simply that there is a time and a place - seek a discussion before or after the meeting with selected individuals, but do not take up valuable meeting time with your personal stuff.
The man who had been transparent about his struggles later said, “I won’t ever do that again. I won’t ever open up to that group again.”
“But I don’t know what to say.” That’s OK. So often I don’t really know what to say either. What you can do is actively listen. You can show interest. You can ask questions. You can show concern.
Secondly, how many times have I responded to someone's heartfelt sharing only to be told "Don't fix it - I just want to share," or alternately, "That's no help."
I can say without fear of contradiction that for men ofttimes presence and silence is precisely the correct response.
See, here's the thing, this post is correct that we must express care, concern and the love of Christ. How that is done is very dependent on the other party and how best to reach them. Sometimes it's "I heard that!" Sometimes it is a touch or a hug. Sometimes it is nothing more than eye contact. Sometimes it is a joke.
Many is the time our efforts to express such concern will be inappropriate. It is hard to know the right way to respond, unless you know the other very, very well. And that is where grace steps in.
You see, I don't care how deep your pain, the listener you have chosen is sinful and broken just like you are. They cannot read your mind or know exactly what it is you are looking for from them in response. You have to listen to the response offered with a grace that permit them to misfire and the patience to allow them to find the right response.
It's a two way street, or it is not a relationship.