Learning to People

Depending on who you are and where you are, peopling can be hard. It can be difficult to get yourself out of your comfort zone and interacting with others. Opening up is uncomfortable and sitting in the hurt of another person is equally difficult. Recently, in a Celebrate Recovery meeting, the Lord began to break down the walls of the women in my group. One by one they began lowering their defensive shields and honestly expressing how they were. The tears flowed steadily. Tissues were passed around. The struggles expressed were hard. And the Holy Spirit was so present in that moment. It was truly beautiful.

A few years ago (even a few months ago), I wouldn’t have been able to sit in that vulnerable space with these women. I would’ve felt uncomfortable with the display of emotion instead of celebrating it as something spectacular. I would’ve wanted to fix the person or the problem. I would’ve struggled to stay silent instead of telling them how to proceed with their lives.

I’m learning that I don’t have all the answers and I don’t have to have
all the answers.

The book of Job is one of my favorite books in the Bible. This man of God was put through the ringer and yet he never cursed God. He loved the Lord so much that he wasn’t about to blame the one who had given him everything. In the midst of immense pain, he asks God some hard questions and grapples with his faith in a very real way — it’s a beautiful story.

What intrigues me most about this book is the people he was left with: his nagging wife and some truly terrible comforters.

While reading through Job this month, I have been struck by the motivations of his friends. These guys were concerned with judgment, blame, and fixing — comforting wasn’t on their radar. They weren’t there to be supportive of their friend who was being dragged through his own personal hell, they were all about being right and proving Job wrong.

There’s a time for giving advice.
There’s a time for pointing out sin.
There’s a time for correcting.

But there’s also a time for silence.
There’s a time for being present.
There’s a time for quiet encouragement.

And it’s our job to know what time it is and respond accordingly.

How many times do we enter a conversation with the intention of fixing the other person? Or proving ourselves to be right? How often do we spend the conversation forming our response instead of truly listening?

On the other hand, when was the last time that you actually listened to someone else? Or entered into a conversation without an agenda? Or were just a shoulder to cry on?

While reading through the book of Job, I couldn’t help but wonder, what would’ve happened if his friends had just been empathetic instead of trying to “fix” the problem or right his “wrong” way of thinking? What would this book look like if his friends had sat there and gone “yeah, this sucks. I’m sorry. I’m going to mourn with you”?

Again, I fully believe there is a time for pointing out sin and correcting in love, but I also believe that empathy and trust pave the way for those tough conversations. Though it’s hard and for some people, myself included, it’s not natural, but I’m learning that empathy is a worthy skill to learn and practice.

To go deeper: Read On Second Thought
Watch Empathy by Brene Brown

 

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