I think one of the most useful things we can meditate on as we listen to anyone, especially anyone suffering, is to hold this statement of fact front of mind:
I have no idea…
- what it’s like to be them
- what it’s like to live their life
- what they in themselves are going through
- how their fears manifest
- how exactly they are driven
- why they might be offended and what over
- what are their barriers and solutions
This list runs on. No matter how close we are to the other person we ought to have the thought of our inherent ignorance at the very front of our minds. We cannot know them as we would wish to know them.
We may feel that this might defeat our hope of helping them, but unless our hope of helping them is defeated we cannot help them.
We must trust that God will use us by His Spirit to the extent that we crave no credit. We say we want all glory to go to God, but we must go a step further and relinquish ourselves.
When we enter a conversation with someone with the statement ‘I have no idea’:
- we encounter them with the humility needed to be ready to be used by the Holy Spirit
- we appear to them, and actually are, more interested, curious, concerned, and discerning
- we offer them a kind of interaction they may rarely if ever have experienced – where they encounter a God-person who is able to provide for them a mirror with which to view their own soul
In our busy lives, hurried by the circumstances and stresses that impinge us, we may find we have less mental and emotional range to truly listen to people. Yet people need it. People crave engagement and for just one person to be interested enough to listen and understand.
Encountering a person with a mindset of ‘I have no idea’ is the best way of being so attentive that, even in a short time, deep trust and respect are transacted. They see respect and find us easy to trust. And we wouldn’t want to betray that trust, so we keep listening in the ‘I have no idea’ way.
When it comes to others, we think we know, but we don’t. The moment we believe we know, we’re most in danger of missing the moment completely.
Assuming we don’t know is the only safe assumption to make. This way we listen with the motive of true otherness.
Steve Wickham is a writer and pastor who holds degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counseling.
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