Some lessons need to be continually re-learned or refined. Such is the case of learning to listen humbly and respectfully to the other person, and also remembering to patiently give them the time they need to process my ideas or suggestions.
I had once written the lyrics to a song. In my first version, my approach was to use a series of word pictures to capture those ideas. It was written in a third person format, from the perspective of an observer.
I showed it to my husband, Tom, and he said it would be nice if it could be in the first person. I said I didn’t see how that could be done in this case, and that there are many popular songs written in third person. Since I wasn’t showing an openness to his idea, he backed down and said maybe the musician would have some ideas. I was in a hurry to get the musician going on it, so I sent it off. What I should have done was say, I don’t see how its possible, but I’ll put it aside and pray about your idea and see what the Lord does.
The real issue here was not that I didn’t respect Tom’s suggestion (though I suspect that may be how it felt to him), but rather, that I couldn’t see how to implement his idea. That, of course, is where prayer comes in!
God is merciful, however. Three days later, He got my attention through an entirely different situation. Tom and I were planning a trip to visit a relative who is battling life-threatening cancer. My focus was entirely on how we could be helping her family. So, when Tom suggested we take a day or two off to go visit some friends that lived in that state, I thought his idea was selfish, but thankfully, I responded correctly and said we could ask our friends if they’d be around and explain that we weren’t sure how our plans would pan out. He agreed to that plan, and I sent an email. (As it turned out, the Lord provided the perfect opportunity to visit them, which proved to be a blessing to all of us!)
As all of this was filtering through my thought processes, my song came to mind. I prayed, and God helped me to incorporate the first- person perspective into the song.
So, there are two sides of the coin to look at here, as well as how we can help each other in this process.
- Humbly and respectfully listen to what the other person has to say, bearing in mind that regardless of what their motives may be, or what we think they may be, God could be speaking through them. (I try to bear that in mind even when unkind people say things to me, but my husband is very kind and gentle.)
- If we are the one presenting an idea or suggestion for the other person to consider, we should bear in mind that they may need time to process the idea, and not be offended if they don’t immediately jump on our band wagon. We should keep in mind that we could be the one that isn’t right, or that the Lord might have a compromise in mind that would meet both of our needs. Time, patience, and prayer will reveal the solution.
- When we feel that the other person isn’t really taking our position into consideration, we might say something like, “Could we pray about this for awhile? I don’t really have peace about it, right now.” That is far more helpful than just giving into the person. And the presenter needs to back off and actually take time to pray about it.
When we humbly recognize that God can speak to and through each of us, and that each of us is capable of being right or wrong, it makes it easier to be patient and respectful toward one another. Instead of being competitors, we should become teammates. God intended us to be. This is love in action.