Genuine, compassionate, kind, thoughtful, pensive, slow-to-speak, quick-to-listen, intuitive, spiritual, loving people– truly inspire me. Can you call to mind the face of the person who that is for you?
I have met these kinds of people before, but they always seems to come in passing–they’re heading that way and I’m heading this way, but for that bittersweet moment we criss-cross, and I experience a personality unlike any other. I must draw you a picture, because this is something you need to see.
Not all people learn to truly, genuinely care. They may say they do, and for specific areas of their life, they do care. But there are some people–we’ll call them samaritans–whose delicate manner in caring for others is done in the same vein as the manner they eat the food that tastes pleasing to them: They simply enjoy it.
Now, don’t confuse the idea of someone “enjoying the experience of caring” with someone who acts as a doormat for attention-seeking individuals without boundaries or respect for others’ feelings and well-being. The samaritans I’m talking about have boundaries, and plenty of self-respect, but they know how to counter someone’s disrespect with concern and compassion. Does this concept surprise you, or even confuse you? Let me draw more of the picture.
Another appreciative quality of the samaritan is their ability to connect with an individual so effortlessly. Eye contact comes so naturally to these kinds of people that we don’t even always realize how their eyes are inviting ours into the conversation. In contrast, there are the people whose eye contact can be interpreted as intrusive or disconcerting. Their eye contact is constant and unmoving; hardly leaving our eyes and barely blinking– if at all. This lack of eye movement altogether, after a minute or two straight, can begin to feel uncomfortable–as if that person is thinking of something else other than what the we’re actually talking about–or leading us to believe the intention behind their listening is different than their concern for us and what we’re saying. The samaritan’s eyes, however, are comforting, gentle, and at ease; relaxed, and very attentive in just the right proportions. In all respects, their eyes–and, therefore, their spirit (our eyes are the key to our soul, no joke)–are present. As we speak, they respond in such a way that feels validating. There is compassion in their eyes, gentleness in their disposition, and space where–for others–there is usually judgment, or a lack of concern or attentiveness. Unmistakably, time rests in a peaceful buoyancy with samaritans; emotions are allowed, welcomed, shared, and ultimately embraced— the very air around them is so weightless and simultaneously full of grace–feeling loved is difficult to ignore, and impossible to resist.
I can recall feeling angry while being heard by a samaritan who simply listened with pursed eyes, following my anger with empathy. By the end, they were nodding in silent agreement with what I’d explained, their eyes slowly blinking and peering into mine with concern and frustration for my situation. This exchange was so emotionally satisfying that I didn’t really care about the frustration of my story anymore, because this person had undermined the anger itself by embracing my hurt and pain with me. I felt validated, like someone was with me in my space of need. They didn’t even have to say anything, and they didn’t give me advice– they simply let me be. That is the underlying gift of wisdom by a samaritan: Their very sagacity in knowing how to listen, when to offer helpful insight, and discerning the difference.
After time spend concentrating on the utilization of those gifts with people, and desiring to better themselves in this regard– listening transcends the problem of being viewed as an obligation or difficult science, and becomes a gift to be shared, cherished, and used with the people we love, care for, and want to be experience life with. The inability to truly listen–to truly share ourselves vulnerably without judgment or further prolonging the feeling of loneliness when, for example, someone responds to a traumatizing story with the “fix”, rather than giving the speaker the precious gift of the quiet solace of presence they actually need instead— is a detrimental problem and schism in human relationships today, and it needs to be addressed with full awareness of its punitive repercussions.
Every person knows what it feels like to not be heard when they vent, how it feels to be ignored or overlooked when in emotional pain, and every person certainly knows what it feels like to believe no one really cares. But a person with the ability to extend themselves in such a way that provides the space for this desired emotional acceptance– this is truly a gift, indeed; that someone would be caring and involved enough in the relationships in their lives to take a deep, introspective look at the way others feel around them when they listen, and to understand–deeply–the way their words have an impact, not only within the context of just one conversation, but within the inflection and motivation behind the words themselves–in any conversation. People who can do this and have devoted quality time to developing this aptitude have acquired more than just skill; they have acquired the ability to be a living vessel of God. Does that last phrase pull your attention away and shock you? Does it seem too much?
God is love, and to be able to provide the space for another person to feel loved by just listening, with only the motivation to give that person that experience in your presence–how is that not being a bridge to God, Himself? You are shining a light directly to Him by doing what He would do. God desires to love us, and in His love for us, the parts of us that are misplaced or distorted and confused become easier to see, and in that process of being exposed to ourselves from God, we can see how the pieces we’ve misplaced through rebellion and selfishness can be put back correctly in their rightful places. God provides that path, and when a person is able to provide the space where God can be seen and felt (although a person isn’t required for this–a person’s personal relationship with Jesus is just as effective), those paths are made very clear. Because of this–specifically–a samaritan’s ability to listen truly exults the love and power of God’s presence in human life.
Why am I sharing this with you? We need more samaritans–it’s simple. And, to be a bit frank, I miss the time spent around people who aren’t in a rush, as if my feelings are less important than the racing speed of the clock. Some people never learn to slow down and live in the moment, and it’s these very people who inspire this post—because we don’t need any of that. We need people who are willing to be still, even momentarily, to give us a moment of their time. Are there times when we simply cannot stop for anything due to inconvenience or responsibility? Of course. But I’m talking about people who begin daydreaming during a conversation, or who are always running around to a destination that doesn’t require their presence with as much emergence as they portend. Stillness speaks; like the spacial quiet during my time with the samaritan when I was angry. Why are people in such dire need to move, to think, to speak, and to act– why not be in need to be still and listen, or just to be? This is a samaritan, and it can be anyone.
It’s more than just the ability to listen, of course. Anyone can learn to listen, but the measure of a samaritan is the depth of their character and the truth of their intention. Without character and intention carefully motivated, a person is far from being a vessel for God. The world needs as much light as it can get to show us back to who we truly are, and God uses us (those who have accepted His love through Christ) to be that example to others who need it. Where are they? Can they be you? Of course. In fact, I hope it is. This world needs samaritans—those who are willing to be what no one else is trying to be. But, who is their motivation?
My hope is that it is God, because every human must have one (samaritan) to be one, and it all starts with the Samaritan who loved us enough to come down here and fix our problem (of sin) for us in the flesh. It’s Him who we strive to emulate by following His Golden Rule, which is and always have been to love (Him with all of our mind, all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our strength, others as ourselves, and ourselves as God loves us). Are we loving others when we listen? Are we showing others who God is when we let others be themselves, or do we try to fix them when they don’t ask for help? Sometimes, our greatest hope is found in the silence of wisdom. And sometimes that silence can be found with someone providing the space for God to be found. Is that you? Is that who you’d like to be?
Look around you at this world and decide for yourself what you believe it needs. More samaritans, or more people trying to fix everything? Where pragmatism is appreciated, sometimes it is unnecessary. What is always necessary is that we learn to slow down, to listen, and to love. Who are you being for others? Is that the best you can be? God loved us through Christ, and now we are to love others through Christ in us. How are you loving others, and how can you love more?
I urge you to think of this and apply it to your life. Keep in mind the changes you are making to others’ lives with your own. I pray that you become aware of this truth, and that you make Godly changes in your every day interactions, one conversation and one relationship at a time. Let God work through you. There are other samaritans on the way for you as well, God is making sure of it. Be blessed, readers!