Listen With Great Compassion
On Monday, I encouraged my readers to be in the moment with people who are in pain and people who are joyful. It’s not helpful or loving to try to push people through and beyond their feelings. If you read that post, have you noticed more people’s feelings in the last two days? How have you responded?
As I wrote on Monday, these two verses can instruct and motivate us:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
“He who withholds kindness from a friend
forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”
As my pastor continued his teaching from the book of Job, he shared this insight that’s clear from reading the debate between Job and his three “friends” found in chapters 7-37:
Resist answering the unanswerable.
Maybe one of the wisest things we can do is listen with great compassion and respond with, “I’m so sorry I don’t have answers.” If people don’t seem to be asking questions, we can simply verbalize, “I’m so sorry.” I’ve sometimes sat with people and said it several times.
Not having answers is hard for me. I’m logic smart and word smart so I think with words and questions. I’m solution-focused. On top of that, I have the spiritual gift of exhortation. I’m naturally driven “to urge, advise, or caution earnestly; admonish urgently.”
But, I know answers and solutions are often not what people want. They want me. They want to be heard. To be seen in their moment.
Silence. It’s not easy. But, it’s so often what’s best.
What Can We Do?
Knowing what some “experts” think wasn’t enough for me. I asked about this on Facebook to see if someone’s presence satisfied people. It’s fun to do research there. Yes, it’s research. There was a lot of agreement among those who answered this question. These comments reflect those of many:
- I want them to be engaged in a way that creates connectedness. You can evaluate engagement by a lot of non-verbal communication (are they facing you, looking at you, leaning in towards you, making eye contact, etc.) but there are other ways too. Are they relaxed, comfortable? Being kind and considerate? Sometimes just being means not being elsewhere, whether physically or emotionally. [Read that last sentence again. It’s good!]
- Mouth closed. Arms, ears, and eyes open.
- I don’t want to hear what I “should or shouldn’t” be thinking/feeling/doing, I just want companionship, understanding, and hopefully encouragement and camaraderie.
- Acknowledge the feelings you’re hearing … “I’m sure that’s exciting” or “That sounds really hurtful.”
- Physical touch – hold my hand, touch my shoulder, hug me, sit close. Don’t tell me your experience and how it turned out (either good or bad). But do empathize and show you understand what I’m feeling. Don’t discount my feelings, let me move through whatever process I need to go through. Do assure me of God’s faithfulness and love.
Peaceful companionship. [I love this phrase!]
- Listening. Not one-upping your situation. Sympathizing or enjoying the moment with you.
- I want undivided attention. I don’t mind if they share experiences that are similar or that yielded the same emotion I’m working through at that time for I believe that it makes for a very close connection. And I don’t want to be judged or criticized. I want to feel as if I’m being heard and understood and that they are there for me trying to help share the experience. I also don’t want them to fix the problem if there is one unless I ask them how they would do it.
- Contentment, satisfaction with that moment … not wishing for more or something different.
- I want true listening and not just hearing me….big difference!
- A car ride. Best conversations in my life seem to happen in the car.
- Eye contact and the feeling that they are truly there, truly listening, not wishing the moment would pass so they can hop along to the next distraction
And, communicated by many: No phone in front of their face!!!! [I think she meant it.] And, there’s this one: I want to be important enough that a cell phone or other device do not need to be present.
Is it Different for Teens?
I hope the above list is helpful and motivational. It was for me. What about teens. Some may say some of the same things adults shared. But, …
Many teens (and children) prefer to talk about emotional and difficult things when they’re busy. They’re not as comfortable with silence as adults are. From one Facebook post:
My 14 year old daughter’s first answer was play video games with me. So I said no video games, what else to be in the moment together. She answered watch a movie together. I asked her why not just sit together or chat together but she said to sit in silence is awkward and to just talk is uncomfortable. I guess she feels more comfortable talking while engaged in another activity.
Yes. Based on my experiences and conversations with teens, I believe many or most or all would agree with this teen. I love that the mom thought to ask her and that her daughter was able to be honest.
As I’ve written about before, many teens also prefer talking while we’re driving because our eyes can’t meet. They often tell me they don’t want to remember the look on our faces when they say something that’s disappointing or alarming. This is also why some like the dark at bedtime. I totally get this. Do you?
Why not do what the mom from Facebook did and ask your children and teens if they have preferences. If you have preferences, let them know yours. Sharing during emotional times is important. Let’s learn to do it well.
As always, thanks for reading. Let me know if this was beneficial. And, if you have ideas about other things you’d like me to blog about, I’d love your ideas.