Monday, September 5, 2011

Rejoice with them that do rejoice

by Michael Denton

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
The above verse from the Book of Romans, Chapter 12:15 (King James Version) came to my mind the other day. I was listening to a conversation between two people. One of the two was describing the loss of a loved one and her pain was obviously very troubling to her. She was telling the man she was speaking with about her relative's struggle with Pancreatic Cancer. Immediately, the man said something along the lines, "Oh my friend's mother had Pancreatic Cancer and she only lasted a few months after diagnosis. He really was upset and has never got over it......." Her painful experience had just been "blown out the window." She wanted to pour her heart out, but was immediately cut off. She wanted him to weep with her.  Instead, he robbed her of the emotion she was trying to share.

     In almost any conversation between two people, the person being spoken to will relate a similar story or situation being discussed. Have you ever noticed that?
I challenge you to listen carefully to two people having a discussion and see if you can pick up what I'm describing here. I'm sure it won't be long before you hear of what I speak.

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
What is this verse telling us? Well, in my humble opinion, it's telling us to listen to the other person in an empathetic manner. You see, when someone has something to say, be it joy or sorrow, we must let that person "own the emotion." All too often, we cut the person off by speaking of our own experience. What that does is basically say to the other person, "I'm not interested in what you're telling me; I want you now to listen to my story." That leaves the person owning the emotion politely listening to the experience being told by the other, but feeling somewhat hurt and disappointed that they've not been able to "pour their heart out."

Can you imagine God doing that to us? Imagine speaking to God in prayer and He cuts you off to recount a similar request or situation of someone else. Would you feel good about it? Would you feel heard?
     I can tell you, it takes a lot of practice not to "jump in" with your own story when someone is speaking to you about their joy, sorrow or experience. I know we mean well, and often think it will help the other person to know their situation isn't unique, or that they're not alone. But what we are doing, whether we realise it or not, is cutting the other person off and letting them know that their story or their situation isn't important enough to gain our full attention.

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
And so I challenge you again. The next time someone is telling you something that invokes a personal memory, please resist the temptation to "jump in" with your story. Let the person speaking to you "Own the Emotion." It will make them feel much better. They'll feel listened to and will appreciate your empathetic ear, or the support you're giving them. There's always another time when you can share your story.

Michael Denton is the organist/choir director of SPPC.  For more about Michael, click here

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