One of my core values is to exemplify a culture of honour through brave communication. Effective communication comprises respectful listening and not diminishing another person’s voice. By resisting the fear that you will not be heard, you build a firm foundation where you can begin effective communication.
One of my greatest peeves is when a person’s need to compete trumps my need to be heard. Perhaps you’ve experienced this as well. You confide to a friend about a personal struggle. They respond with an off-the-cuff remark, “Oh, everybody goes through that; it’s no big deal” Then they meet your story with a war story of their own, diminishing your pain and rendering it insignificant. Sometimes, misery doesn’t want company; it just wants to be acknowledged and heard.
The need to be heard, truly heard, is a global problem leading to violence and division. As the old song goes, “Everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word they’re saying. Only the echoes of my mind” (Harry Nilsson)
I asked the Lord, “How can we as Christ-followers make a difference? How can we better listen and earn the right to be heard by others? We have a solution, but they can’t hear us.”
In response, I felt the Lord say, “Begin in your circle of influence. Be that rock that is the catalyst that causes a ripple effect.’
As Christ-followers, we make a difference when we walk in the opposite spirit of what the global world and social media display. Be patient and allow others the space to express pain and frustration. Listen intently and at all costs, resist the temptation to out-misery a person in pain.
When we verbally compare our pain to another person’s pain, they feel unheard, and their frustration grows. We feel offended that they didn’t hear us, and we throw rocks at each other to gain each other’s attention.
We all have stones at hand. When we are in conflict, we must remember this. We have a choice. We can use those stones to throw at each other. Or we can lay those stones down and invite others to come alongside us as we build a bridge toward actual communication.
We can break that cycle by giving people the space to be heard. Listen and ask questions long before you plan rebuttals in your mind. If you genuinely don’t understand why the person is upset about something you might consider trivial, ask more questions from a posture of humility until you can sense their frustration diminish. As you surrender your right to one-up them with your own story, you position yourself to receive the opportunity to be heard. Perhaps you might not be heard by that person, but God will find another way for your heart to express itself. Outdo one another by showing honour, as Paul says in Romans 12:11-21.
Romans 12:10-11 – “Outdo one another in showing honour. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
©2022 Katherine Walden