Lose weight, get in shape, read more, sleep more, spend less, eat right, stop this, do that, oh…they are all around the corner. Yes, there is a new year ahead of us and we have no idea what lies ahead. Yes, we therefor try once again to make some resolutions to take control of our life if but for one week or two. Then, we fail, we shrug our shoulders and move on (back) to where we are now.
The same is true of relationships. We start at the end. “I’m going to be a more loving…” whatever you are. “I’m going to improve my relationship with my…” whoever. It ends up the same as the other resolutions, you try, you may even try hard for a week or three but then…poof, it’s gone. One major fight or more likely hurt and you fold. Why not start small? Why not learn one or two disciplines and apply them intentionally to all relationships?
“Well, Jay, where would you suggest I start?” I am so glad you asked. I’ve mentioned before that we are to join people in their emotions and why it helps. Yes, it’s based on Romans 12:15b that states “…rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” Today, I will give you a gift of ways you can more effectively do that.
These are to be used as someone shares either a hurt or when something good has happened. These are for THE moments when someone is being open, honest, and vulnerable with you. These are not times to “get a handle on” what is going on. These are not moments when you need to fix them or even encourage them. This is not advice you give them. These tips simply help you be “with” them so they do not feel alone in their emotion.
Do’s and Don’ts for coming alongside someone who is rejoicing or hurting.
1. Do not “reflect” their emotion, this leaves them still feeling alone.
2. Do not simply “identify” with their emotion, this takes their emotion away from them and focuses on you. “I know just how you feel.” “That happened to me once…”.
3. Do not try to fix them or tell them what they need to do. There is another time for that. “Here’s what you need to do.” “If you would just do this, that won’t happen again.”
4. Do not assess the validity of someone’s emotion and certainly do not tell them to not feel that way. “Oh, don’t be sad.” “That’s the way life is, you’ll get over it.”
5. When listening, don’t ask many (if any) questions. Asking helps you, not them. They’re sharing from their hearts, asking questions takes them to their brain and away from their heart/feelings.
6. Don’t focus on how you feel as they share, focus on how you feel FOR THEM.
7. Join them in their emotion. Further, ask God how He feels for them. Let them know how their situation makes you feel…for them. “I feel really sad as I listen to your story.” “I am excited for you.” “Listening to your problem makes me feel angry for you.” “That makes me happy to hear your family is doing well. That’s great!”
Rather than make some lofty goal and try to fix everything all at once with your intention alone, why not pick one or two of the above and focus on being better at that? There is probably one of them that you find to be your “go to” move when someone is upset or angry. Try to follow the tip rather than fall into your old bad comfortable relational habit.
Either way, I hope and pray that the New Year brings you a peace and sense of renewal that helps you face each day with renewed hope and optimism. It’s a nice idea anyhow.