Tuesday, February 18, 2014
I was recently reading Henry Cloud's book, Integrity, and found his insights into connecting with others fascinating. Cloud discusses how being a nice person doesn't always translate into close relationships. Have you ever met a nice person that you couldn't connect with? Perhaps he always had a smile on his face and went out of his way to greet you, but you found yourself avoiding him. Or perhaps she was syrupy sweet, so much so that you found yourself looking for a way to escape long talks with her. Why? What could possibly be the problem? We're talking about nice people! Well, perhaps the problem is a lack of empathy. A person can be nice but simply not get you. Years ago, I counseled a couple that was having problems. The husband was a very successful businessman and the wife was a delightful, attractive, friendly person. But I noticed something when they were in my office. She did all the talking. She always had a smile on her face, a genuine cheerfulness, and kind words to say. But she had to be the center of attention. There was very little two-way communication. It was non-stop, high energy, fire hose in your face of gushy sweetness. And it soon became exhausting. In order to be in a relationship, you have to be more than cheerful. You also have to step into the experiences of others. You have to feel, at some level, what they are feeling. You have to understand what they're going through. Syrup doesn't lubricate tragedy or heartache or anger well. It can come across as condescending and aloof. If you're a cheerful person by nature and, yet, you find yourself lonely, ask yourself, "Am I empathizing with others well?" "Am I trying to feel what they feel and understand where they're coming from?" One of the things I love about Jesus is that He gets me and He gets you. Hebrews 4:15 says, "This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced the same testings we do, yet he did not sin." Jesus was nice, but He was more than nice. He was also empathetic...to the point of actually living our struggles with us. What must I do to become more like Him, for in doing so I go beyond nice and make a true difference with others.