How you listen and respond to someone will determine the kind of help you provide. Everybody does not work through their problems biblically, which is why you must know how to come alongside the hurting so you can bring the best care to them.
You may want to read:
- Why You Should Listen at Two Levels
- Double-Confession: How to Respond When Sinned Against
- How to Help Abused People Practically
Mable was sharing a story about her friend, Marge. She said Marge was venting over something that someone did to her. Marge was right in that someone had hurt her. But because Mable responded to Marge’s monologue through an unbiblical filter, she gave her poor advice.
Oh my, I’m so sorry for you. That person was wrong for doing that.
On the heels of Mable’s inadequate response, she took up an offense for Marge as she began to judge uncharitably those who hurt her. And, of course, Mable’s approach validated Marge, though it did not help her work through her struggle with the hurtful individual.
Suppose the same story happened, but instead of letting Marge respond sinfully to her hurt, Mable responded to the conversation through a biblical filter. She would not only sympathize with her suffering, but she would be able to bring transformative care to her friend.
You never want to minimize or overlook the hurt that a person is experiencing, but it would also be wrong to ignore any sinful reactions from the hurting person. Marge was legitimately suffering, and she was objectively sinning, which is a complicated duo.
Because Mable avoided “speaking the truth in love” to Marge (Ephesians 4:15), she missed an opportunity to help her friend redemptively. She enabled Marge, which disqualified Mable from helping her through the entire complexity of her relationship struggle.
A Biblical Re-Do
What if you replayed the same scenario, but instead of enabling a hurting friend, Mable takes a more biblically thoughtful and helpful approach.
I am so sad that this has happened to you. May I pray for you? I’m grateful that you are comfortable enough to share with me what happened. That speaks much to your trust in me. I’m glad that I can care for you.
(At some point in the future you follow up with something like the following.)
May I ask you a question?
It sounds to me, though I could be wrong, that you are not only hurting, which I understand, but you are angry as well. Am I hearing you correctly? Are you upset in a sinful way? Am I missing something?
Because she is filtering the situation biblically, she can care for her friend in her suffering, while loving her through the sin. How you listen to others will determine how you respond to them. If you train yourself to think and react in biblical categories, your care will have more of a transformative effect.
Six Words of Caution
1 – Christian counseling is not Christian if you do it without compassion. And if you’re not sure if you’re compassionate, always “err” on the side of tears for those within your care.
2 – You don’t want to be too quick in addressing a person’s perceived sinfulness when someone has hurt them. The degree of the hurt and the maturity of the victim will determine the timing of resolving the situation adequately.
3 – Don’t be one of those biblical counselors who gets hung up over language. Give those within your care space and grace when addressing what you believe is imperfect communication.
4 – Hold your perceptions loosely; you could be wrong. Follow James’ advice about being quick to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19). Your goal is to help the person, which sometimes means overlooking some things. At other times, it means patiently waiting for the right opportunity to share your perspective.
5 – Ask the Lord to give you the wisdom to know if you should say anything. Don’t let your knowledge overpower the love that the person needs (1 Corinthians 8:1-2). Knowledge without wisdom is more like the devil than Jesus.
6 – Always remember your primary goal with people is redemptive. Sometimes that means working on the “wrinkles” in their lives while at other times you overlook secondary matters.
Also published on Medium.