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Posts Tagged ‘respecting others’

Sometimes it’s the simple things, the things we can do so easily, that matter most to people, isn’t it? Sometimes it can mean so much to others, for example, when we actually pay attention to them, when we listen with our whole being, when we respect them as human beings created in God’s image.

I was reminded of this last week when I gave a talk in a secular club environment. I began as usual by engaging with those present and making sure everyone felt included. Several times during my talk, I asked for audience responses—and I also continued to ‘read the room’, checking that everyone still seemed interested and awake! Nothing I did seemed special or new to me—in fact, I thought this is what every speaker they invited would naturally do. After all, who wants to drone on to a bored audience for forty-five minutes?!

Imagine my surprise then when two lovely gentlemen sitting right down the front spoke to me afterwards.

‘That was wonderful—thank you so much! You seem to …’ one man said, groping for words to express himself.

‘Yes,’ the other man chimed in. ‘It was excellent. I like how you … well … connected with us. You’re very …’

At that point, I took pity on them.

‘Inclusive?’ I suggested.

‘Yes—that’s the word!’ they agreed, beaming.

I was stunned and felt almost teary at their sincere compliments. But later, as I drove home, I began to think more about their response. At our church, all our preachers speak in a warm, inclusive way. It is what I am used to hearing and seeing, week by week. And it is also how I have always tried to speak myself—it simply seems natural to me. Yet these men, along with others present, had found it somehow different and were touched.

As I realised this, I began to feel both sad and ashamed. I felt sad that these people somehow seem to have missed out on experiencing similar warm, inclusive input. And I felt ashamed that I had taken such warm experiences of my own for granted, along with my God-given ability to speak in an inclusive way.

After my talk that day, one of these two men also told me with tears in his eyes how he does not practise his faith anymore, although he still believes in God in his heart—and my own heart went out to him. What had happened in his life? Had no one truly listened or shared the things of God with him in a loving way? He bought one of my books—and I hope and pray God will speak to him as he reads it.

But I also hope that, from now on, I treasure my own warm experiences of being part of a church family so much more. And I hope I will be much more grateful too for my own God-given gifts that enable me to speak and connect warmly with others. God has graciously given us all so much—let’s always be ready and willing to share whatever gifts we have with others.

Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words … 1 Peter 4:10-11 The Message

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We sat on the back patio in the warm sun, chatting as we ate our lunch. This year, while my husband and I met with our son’s family for afternoon tea on Mothers’ Day itself, I decided I wanted to catch up with our two daughters separately on different days. This then was my opportunity to be with our older daughter and, even though our meal was relatively simple, I found our time together and the warm conversation we enjoyed priceless.

I had made egg sandwiches which our daughter then garnished with parsley and chives from her garden, thus adding wonderful aroma and taste and lifting my basic fare out of the ordinary. Then our daughter served a delicious sponge cake she had baked, complete with jam and cream in the centre and icing sugar on top. What a treat! Immediately, it brought back such comforting memories of my mother’s and grandmother’s sponges which I myself have never been able to replicate.

We topped off our special yet simple lunch with hot cups of tea—all so enjoyable on that level alone. But as we relaxed and chatted, I was reminded again of a deep truth I have noticed many times in the past and experienced myself—the truth that most of us so long to be listened to. Really listened to, that is. This day with our daughter, I felt heard, airing all my various current concerns about my writing and life in general with her. And I hope and pray she felt the same, as I tried my best to hear clearly the things she shared and empathise with her in the process.

You see, one thing she mentioned in this time was that, when talking with a particular friend, she often does not feel heard. ‘They just do not listen!’ she told me with great frustration. Have you ever experienced this yourself? This is how misunderstanding happens, isn’t it? We can feel negated and disrespected and … well, somehow plain wrong. And we can come to believe what we offer the world is worthless.

I suspect I am particularly aware of this issue because I myself tend to talk a lot when in a one-on-one setting with someone. I have so many thoughts and ideas running around in my head I want to share that I know I can easily monopolise the conversation at times and even silence the other person. Yet often I am there to listen to them, not vice versa! Instead, I need to give them space, to honour who they are and, in general, to hear them well. I need to rein in my own desires and, instead, put the other person first.

I have always found what James says about listening very challenging.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry … James 1:19 NIV

As for the following verse from two different versions … ouch!

To answer before listening is foolish and shameful. Proverbs 18:13 NIRV

Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. Proverbs 18:13The Message

I don’t want to be stupid or rude when talking with others, do you? And I don’t want to feel ashamed either of my own self-centredness. So … let’s listen to others more. And let’s listen so well!

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