What do we all want? We all want to be understood. We want people to see the world from our point of view. We want others to validate our experience of the world. This does not mean agree with our view or experience, just see it, hear it and acknowledge that experience.
Understanding means to be aware of other people’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving. To validate means to demonstrate or support the truth or value of a person. Jesus did this all the time. He valued people and let them know he valued them by listening, understanding and validating the truth they were living.
Are we? Do we listen to truly understand and validate the value of another person, even if we don’t agree with them? Do we put aside our need to be right so someone else can feel important in that moment? Can we truly value them?
I find that it is easy to start that process and then as soon as we hear or see something that we think is “wrong,” or not true we insert our thoughts, feelings, advice. We stop listening and caring at that point. We are only concerned about making sure we are valued, our opinion is heard and our view of the world is validated. We are no longer understanding.
If we call ourselves “Christ followers” and don’t understand and validate others, the world will not listen to us. The most practical way to love is to practice listening. Listening to understand. Listening to validate. Listening to value another person.
Listening is not listening to judge, to find what is wrong and criticize, and convince them of our opinion. Jesus just listened to people first. He valued them first. Zacheus, the woman at the well, the woman brought to him in adultery, the prostitute who washed his feet, the leper who called out to him.
People all around us are crying out to be understood and validated. They desperately want to be understood for who they are, what they have lived through, and how they need to be supported. Imagine if Christ followers just did that one thing. Listened and understood. Who could stop a power like that?!