the weblog of Alan Knox

Do you really care about people?

Posted by on Jan 25, 2013 in community, discipleship, fellowship | 13 comments

Do you really care about people?

Do you really care about people? You remember when Jesus said something about loving others (and then Paul, Peter, James, John, and others picked up on that theme in their writings)? Well, it seems kinda obvious, but you can’t love others if you don’t care about them.

A few days ago, Randy at “Bible Study Geek” (his subtitle ‘Nerd Groks Word’ always makes me smile) published a post called “People.” Although his post is about relationship problems, it really comes down to caring about people.

He wrote (in part):

You get close enough to someone and eventually you will disappoint him and he will disappoint you. The disappointment can be handled in several ways, but it will always be there and it will never go away. It will affect your relationship.

I have disappointed my wife so often that I’m embarrassed to still be alive. She–a woman of great grace–has forgiven me and she loves me with a hunka burning love. But in certain situations, she doesn’t quite trust me because I have proven that I am not totally trustworthy. Even if my record is good for the last several years, there is a certain level of distrust remaining. That’s my fault, not hers.

That’s just one example.

I have a long string of victims in my wake. Like a Palm Sunday tornado, I’ve left strong trees toppled along my path of destruction. I wish I could stand those trees back up, but I don’t know how.

Like Randy, we all have “left strong treest toppled along [our] path of destruction.” It’s true… all of us. And, of course, we’ve all been hurt as well. For some, the hurt goes deeper than others, but everyone has been hurt by someone else.

And, like I said, the hurt often (if not always) begins because we really don’t care about other people – or, at least, we care about them less than we care about ourselves.

Around the same time that I was thinking about this, a friend of mine left the following on Facebook:

About two weeks ago I determined to do the following: Be more present, interested, and attentive to others – and – to look at people as having a sign hung around their neck that says: Please listen to me and value me. I am already seeing this bear fruit in my life and believe me it does not just benefit the people with whom I interact with—it has benefitted me more than you can imagine. Can you think of the benefits that would come from interacting in such a way with people you come in contact with? How does it benefit others… how would it benefit you?

Do you see what he’s doing? He’s reminding himself that others are important. If we remember that other people are important, then we’ll begin to care about them.

Do you listen to people? Do you value them? How do you show it?

I think these are good questions to ask ourselves. But, for now, I’ll close with the questions that my friend asked on Facebook:

If you started looking at people as having a sign around their neck that says, “Please listen to me and value me,” what benefits would come from interacting with people in that way? How would it benefit other people? How would it benefit you?


13 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-25-2013

    Here are a dozen fixes:

    1. Ditch the cell phone, iPod, or tablet. You can’t engage people around you if your face is buried perpetually in a tech gadget.
    2. Stop wearing a watch. Even boring people need your time and attention.
    3. Make appointments with others for lunch, coffee, or (gasp) a beer. Then actually show up.
    4. Play board and card games with people.
    5. Write handwritten letters to other people. Guys, this means you.
    6. Be available. You can’t be a people person if your entire life is scheduled to the max.
    7. Ditch the TV and use that time for socialization.
    8. Don’t be so darned quick to leave church on Sunday. Hang around and talk with others.
    9. Make time to talk with young people. Be that older person who “crosses the bridge” and reaches across the generations.
    10. Don’t eat meals alone or just with your family. Invite someone else to partake of that time with you.
    11. Stop being so concerned with how nice your house looks at all times. People with perfect houses never tend to open them to others.
    12. When you are out in public, engage other people, especially those people in service roles who may otherwise be ignored by others. The kid bagging your groceries matters to God.

  2. 1-25-2013

    One example:

    I’m competitive and I enjoy arguing. I’ve found that when I’m conversing with someone with whom I disagree, I need to conciously find something with which I agree and acknowledge it. I also need to search for the strengths in the other person’s position and honor that. It can seem forced unless I’m asking the Holy Spirit to help me love the other person.

    Otherwise I become more wrapped up in whether I “win” the argument, and thus miss what God wants to teach me through that person. I know I’ve hurt people this way, but I’ve also missed out.

  3. 1-25-2013

    Watchman Nee in, The Character of the Lord’s Worker, says, right in the first chapter, that the top and foremost characteristic of someone who works for the Lord should be the ability to LISTEN to others. Not to preach the word, teach others, or speak the gospel, but to listen.

    The best way to start is to listen to those around you, those that the Lord put you with. In the church life we need to listen to one another, and care for one another. The Lord Jesus is the One who listens to us – “cast all your cares upon Him, because it matters to Him concerning you” (as Peter said).

    I have checked with myself many times about this. We meet, we meet again, and we meet again – for years. But, Lord, do I care for the saints? Do I have Your caring and loving heart? And as I prayed this way, there’s a feeling in me, there’s Someone in me that can care for others!

    Believe me, whether we ask ourselves this or that question, whether we even set alarms on the phone to remind us to call this or that brother, nothing outwardly works until you personally touch the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls, and together with Him you care for others according to Him…

  4. 1-25-2013

    Dan,

    I think that your list is good from some people (perhaps most our age), but not for others – especially younger people. For example, I know many younger people who appreciate communication via electronic devices. Similarly, my wife HATES board games. If you broke out a board game, you would completely lose her interest. I think the point is that we have to know the people we’re interacting with… which begins with listening to them.

    Tim,

    Thanks for the example. I often still find myself thinking about my next response more than what the other person is saying. That shows that I don’t really care about that person (at least, not at that moment).

    Stefan,

    I agree that only the Holy Spirit can change someone’s heart such that they care for others. Why do you think Scripture, then, continues so many reminders to care for others? For example, why did Paul not just say, “Let the Holy Spirit change you so that you care for others” instead of writing specific reminders (for example in Philippians 2:1-11)? Could it be that even with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us and exhorting us and empowering us to love others, there’s still a role that we play in “putting off” our old way of living?

    -Alan

  5. 1-25-2013

    The Amish note wisely technology is good only if it serves a man and not the other way around. I would contend that while we oldsters have a few things we need to correct ourselves, the young are too beholden to tech gadgets. More often than not, gadgets are used a means to hide rather than to be available. I’ve had introverts tell me that tech devices have enabled them to be more outgoing, but I would offer that one mustn’t rely solely on tech to fix one’s prejudices. In fact, the gadget that may draw some closer is the same device one uses to distance oneself from other forms of interaction; in the end, the device becomes a means of control.

    In short, those of us with a touch of gray aren’t the only one who need to reevaluate how we live.

    And yes, Christians of all stripes need to do a better job of listening. Listening gains us more right to speak, so that when we do speak, it carries more weight.

  6. 1-25-2013

    Dan,

    I treat communications through electronic devices much like I do any other non-face-to-face communications – it’s a supplement only. And, like you said, many times electronic devices are used to entertain ourselves, and, thus, automatically turn us away from others. This is much the same that my generation used the TV. So, like you said, people can become too attached to those devices. Turning them off completely is not necessarily the answer, if they’re used to reach out to others to supplement our face-to-face interactions.

    -Alan

  7. 1-26-2013

    If people think you see them as “your project” – they see right thru that. You can pretty much kiss that thing as a total waste of time.

    As important as it is to speak into someone’s life – it may be more important to allow them to speak into your life. You really don’t get anywhere if it’s not give and take.

    Instead of giving advice – maybe you need to ask for it. Instead of being the expert – maybe you need to allow them to be the expert. There’s plenty of things they know that you don’t have a clue about.

    We’re so used to top down structures where there’s honor given exclusively to the alpha dog that we don’t really understand honoring one another.

  8. 1-26-2013

    Isn’t it fun to argue/debate with a worthy opponent! Isn’t it sad that our brains don’t work fast enough to both listen to the speaker and also plan our next argument…and the listening suffers.

  9. 1-26-2013

    Jerry,

    I think that’s a great point, and a great way to show someone that you actually care for them. Thank you!

    Tom,

    Exactly. I’m slowly learning that arguing and debating are often counter-productive.

    -Alan

  10. 1-27-2013

    Alan, this was a great post. Thought provoking. Joe and I talk about it all of the time. Many times we have found that caring means listening. Listening means – choosing to engage. Praying more diligently about your place in their life. Being wise about when to speak and when to just listen or offer a hug. OR when it is more of an investment…perhaps a meal or more tangible help in a given situation. If we wouldn’t have listened, we wouldn’t have known. Wouldn’t be in a place of responsibility. Wouldn’t feel the weight of ‘knowing stuff’. We have also learned that caring isn’t ‘fixing stuff’. Whatever that may be. We aren’t always called to be the one that jumps into a given situation. We (Joe and I)sometimes still struggle with knowing when God is calling us to be His hands (and do something) and when we are just supposed to listen.

    We have some friends who are really struggling right now and sometimes the most important thing to them is that we are just ‘there’. Having a meal together, watching a movie. Not solving the worlds problems or theirs (or ours!) just being there, spending time.

    I liked what Jerry said about letting someone speak into your life as well. Receiving care. Mutual engagement. Mutual love. Mutual caring.

  11. 1-27-2013

    Danette,

    Thank you for your comment and further thoughts on this subject. I love the way that you and Joe are caring for people in so many ways, especially with those friends who are struggling.

    -Alan

  12. 1-28-2013

    Alan, I am not saying that we should leave it all up to the Lord when He leads us. What I am saying is YES, we need to learn to listen to others and pay attention to their needs and situations, but don’t do it apart from Christ – who is the real shepherd.

    There’s a capacity in us, an innate ability, which is in the divine life in our spirit, that is able to take care of others and listen to them. In ourselves we can do it for a while, but eventually we will need the Lord to come in. Actually in everything we do we don’t need to just do it “because the Bible tells us so”, but because we have contacted the writer of the Scriptures and we do it for Him, one with Him, and because we love Him.

    It’s all about Him. If we miss Him, “you search the Scriptures, thinking that in them you will find eternal life – yet you don’t come to Me!”.

    Grace to you, my dear brother.

  13. 1-28-2013

    Stefan,

    I agree. In everything we do, we rely completely on Jesus Christ. Relying on him, though, will lead us to actively engaging people and caring about them. If we don’t have the second part (caring for people), then we do not have the first part (relying on Jesus).

    -Alan

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