There is great potential for doing much good by really listening to another’s story.
I was a young minister. He called late one afternoon. He was the manager of a popular restaurant in town. He asked if he could come by my office and talk.
He arrived later that afternoon. I watched through the window as he parked his new yellow Corvette. New. He was in his late thirties and well dressed.
I decided that I didn’t like him.
Why? I suppose it was jealousy. At the time, Charlotte and I were just getting by financially. We had a new baby. We had only lived in this city for about a year. We were renting a house and trying to figure out how to pay the bills. I felt a lot of stress.
So before I ever met this man, before I ever heard his story, I decided that I didn’t like him.
He had not been in my office five minutes when he began to cry. He worked many, many hours at the restaurant and felt as if he was successful and unstoppable. He had been offered various promotions. Then, he became involved with another woman. Now, his wife was taking their two small children and was leaving him.
“I have nothing.”
He went on to say “I have lost my marriage and my children. I have no real friends. I have disappointed so many people.” He told me about his mistakes, his failures and his sins. We talked at length and then I prayed for him.
My heart went out to this broken man.
After he left, I realized that my own heart had not been broken enough. Initially, I had decided that I did not like him because of my own jealousy and discontent. Before I had even met him, I was totally focused on what he seemed to possess have that I did not have. Not good!
Years later, I have learned to be slower–much slower–about drawing conclusions about people. Far too many times, I have misjudged people and have assumed bad motives when there were none. Often, when I have hurriedly decided that I don’t like someone it is because of my own insecurity or jealousy.
The following are important questions that I now want to consider when talking with another person:
1. How does Jesus see this person? (If I were to know what Jesus knows about this person, how would this impact the way I treat him/her?)
2. What is this person’s story?
3. After this conversation is over, will this person feel as if I really listened?
What happens in a conversation that causes you to come away feeling as if that person has really listened?