Timeless Wisdom

Timeless Wisdom

By Milt Cole

Staff Devotion from February 15, 2011

I’m not gonna be really spiritual today. I’m not gonna go through a passage with you. I’m gonna be really practical. I tried to think of some Scripture passages I could tie in with what I want to say but I didn’t have a lot of luck. Everything I’m gonna say has something to do with something a staff member has brought up as an issue over the years and it’ll be brief and practical.

Several years ago, when we had a Jr. High pastor named Joseph, we would go to breakfast occasionally. I remember one time at breakfast he asked me a question. How do you handle compliments? What do you say if somebody comes up to you after you’ve taught and they say, “You’ve done a great job.” Or if someone complimented you on what you’re wearing and told you something looks nice on you. What do you say, how do you respond to that? A lot of times we say dumb things, you know, if somebody thanks you for a great teaching job: “Oh don’t thank me, thank Jesus.” Somehow, we’ve got to sound spiritual or whatever. Or they compliment you on your sweater: “Oh, I got that from the Goodwill ten years ago.” What do you say? It’s really simple. “Thank you.” Just say thank you.

Now when somebody compliments me on a job well done (which is rather rare nowadays), I will normally say, “Thank you I appreciate your encouragement.” That’s all you need to say. Don’t try to sound spiritual or humble like, “Oh you shouldn’t have said that.” “I really don’t deserve that,” or, “If you really knew what kind of jerk I am you wouldn’t have said something like that.” Just say “Thank you.” And there is a Scripture verse that I can bring in: “In everything give thanks.” So just say “Thank you.” First, just say thank you. The next thing is shut up. Just shut up.

Another staff member, Rob, shared with me an experience he had. You know his Granddad was sick. He was really sick, so Rob went back to see him. He loves his Granddad. I got the impression he helped raise Rob and it just broke his heart to see the way his Granddad was. And he was really feeling bad about it.

So he came back from visiting his Granddad and he was sharing with somebody how he was still hurting. And in a sense what he was doing was grieving. You don’t just grieve over death. You grieve when someone you love is hurting deeply. And that’s what he was going through. And Rob was sharing this with a friend and the friend said something like, “You should be over that by now. You shouldn’t be feeling that way now. You’ve had enough time to deal with that.”  In that case, that friend should have just simply shut up. A Scripture verse for that is, “Weep for those who weep.” Don’t try to fix them. Validate their feelings. “Man, I can understand how you would feel that way because I know how much you love your Granddad.” But see this person was trying to fix Rob from hurting by telling him he didn’t need to feel that way. Never tell a person how they should feel or how they shouldn’t feel.  Feelings are involuntary. And if you want to relate to them, try to validate their feelings. They tell you what they’re going through and you say, “Man that must really be tough for you.” Never say, “Oh I know how you feel.” You don’t know how they feel even if you have had an identical experience. Everybody feels differently about things. But just validate their feelings. Just say, “Thank you.” Just shut up or validate their feelings. And the final thing is just show up.

There was a gal who worked in the office who was telling me about her neighbor that she had grown up beside and grew up with her neighbor’s kids. She was really close to this gal and a close friend of her mother who is in the hospital. It was serious and this staff person told me, “I just can’t go visit her.” And after I peeled myself off the wall and got in her face she said, “I don’t know what to say.” She wasn’t going to show up because she didn’t know what to say.

Now I told her you are going to show up. You’re gonna go visit her in the hospital this evening and you don’t have to worry about saying anything. Just show up. Tell her you love her but don’t try to be profound or provocative and, again, don’t try to fix her. You can’t fix her, but you can love her. And you’re showing love when you show up.

That has been one of the most freeing things for me in my ministry. I get called to have to go the emergency room, or a home, or a kid’s committed suicide, and typically I’d be thinking, “Oh, what am I going to say?”  Well, I don’t have to worry about what I’m gonna say. All I’ve got to do is show up, tell them I’m sorry for them, and that I hurt for them, but I don’t have to be provocative. I don’t have to fix them. You can’t fix people like that. But you can be there for them, and you can listen.

And typically, what happens when you show up is they’ll start talking. And you don’t have to worry about talking. You just listen because they’ll pour their heart out to you. And when you realize you can’t fix them and you don’t try to fix them, you don’t worry, “Well, I’ve got to think of something really wise or really profound.” You just got to be there and give them a hug. That’ll go further toward fixing them than anything you can say. I remember this guy loses his wife and a friend comes along and says, “Hey you’re young enough to get married again.” “Oh goodie! Thanks, I feel so much better now. Now that I know I’m young enough to get married, it’s no big deal my wife died.” You know, just don’t try to think about things to say. Just put it in the Lord’s hands.
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