(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
The Golden Rule - Part 2
31st August 2009
I wrote last time about what Christians call The Golden Rule:
In this simple way, Jesus shows us how to behave towards others: ask yourself how you would want them to treat you, and treat them in that way.
I took as my example the opportunity to take something without paying for it, because it was left off the bill.
This time, I'd like to consider an area that some Christians are much better at than others - conversation.
When I talk to people, I should think about their circumstances and ask myself, "if I was them, would how would I want someone to talk to me?".
There are several reasons why I sometimes fail to do this.
If I have pressing problems of my own, I think about myself so much that I forget to think about them. I find the best way to deal with this is to realise early that it's happening. Then I can choose to put my issues aside for a time or, if I can't, to tell the person that I'm unable to have that conversation at that time. They may be disappointed, but that's better that the hurt they would feel by sharing something important that I failed to take seriously.
Also, in some environments, I can be too aware of my own insecurity and discomfort to listen properly. I pray and believe that God is dealing with this insecurity. But again, it's better to tell the other person that you can't handle the conversation at that time, than to continue in a way that will disrespect their hopes, fears and hurts.
But sometimes I'm just being selfish, thinking about the conversation that I want, not what they want.
We can also be insensitive, not noticing the importance of what the other person is saying - how much it means to them. It's helpful to me to remember times when I was trying to tell a friend something deeply painful about myself, and my friend just treated it as a normal conversation - changing the subject and talking as much as listening. This reminds me that there are times when others need to be listened to with very little interruption.
I've tried to be amusing when the other person is in no state to be amused, and has been hurt by the impression that I wasn't taking them seriously.
I've been too motivated by my own agenda, or the church's agenda, to treat people as people, rather than just as co-workers - or what Jess Lucas calls "vision fodder".
And I've spoken many. I've made lots of mistakes in not seeing what the other person needs, or not caring enough to find out.
And so, probably, have you.
But by the grace of God, I'm improving. And so are you, if His Holy Spirit dwells in you.