Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:2 that we are to “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love.” So just asking someone how they are and then rushing on, assuming they are going to say “fine” doesn’t fit the picture that Paul gives us here. Building a relationship takes time and listening to someone is an effort, but it is also an amazing gift. In counseling we talk a lot about reflective listening. Reflective listening is when I can tell you what you just told me. I don’t have to use the exact words (I’m not a tape recorder), but to convey to the person what I heard them say. Now I may get it right or I may get it wrong. It doesn’t really matter, because I’m giving you the chance to correct me if I’m wrong. The goal is for me to know what it is you want to say. So much of the misunderstanding between people comes from miscommunication, and sometimes we misrepresent what others think and say. That doesn’t come from the spirit of Christ. One thing we see time and time again in the gospels is Jesus connecting with an individual one-on-one.
In Matthew 8 we read the story of the faith of the Centurion. He comes to Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus listens to him and agrees to go. The centurion then shows that he too has been listening. He has been paying attention to who Jesus is, this isn’t just a show, he knows that Jesus is the real deal, so he says “All you have to do is speak the word and my servant will be healed.” This man understood Jesus better than his own disciples did at that moment. Jesus was amazed at his faith and his insight.
In John 8 the Pharisees drag a woman caught in the act of adultery before Jesus demanding an answer to should we stone her. We know his famous statement to the accusers, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” To the woman, after the men leave, he simples asks, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” And then he says, “Neither do I, go and sin no more” (or leave your life of sin). It is a brief interaction, yet I think she probably felt heard by Jesus. He understood and showed mercy to her. Sometimes making connections doesn’t require a long time and effort. Sometimes it just takes a moment to really see the other person, where they are and make a connection with them.
So the next time you ask someone how they are slow down, look them in the eye and let them know you actually want to know the answer.