I had a really nice visit with a friend not so long ago. While she is a pastor’s wife at our church, I’ve also had the privilege to get to know her better through a small group Bible study. It was during this time that she really made an impression on me. Although she has 5 children of her own and is my junior, I was able to discern she had a depth to her Christian walk. In other words, she wasn’t just a “pastor’s wife” in name only. She has a genuine faith all her own aside from her husband’s role in the church.
During our brief visit, I shared with her some things I’ve been struggling with in my parenting. Knowing her as I do, I felt she would have some godly wisdom for me. Little did I know that her words would be few, yet pregnant in meaning. Her response, “I haven’t walked in your shoes.” Wow! That really resonated with me because she could have easily spewed from her vast experience of parenting her own 5 children. I would have taken it all in and considered what she was saying, but the impact of those 6 words conveyed so much more to me.
“I haven’t walked in your shoes” communicates several things. One being the most obvious, I’ve not been in your particular situation so I don’t feel I can bring anything to the table. Second, considers that while the experience I have with my children might be helpful to you, it may not be, simply because all children are different just as all parents are different. Third, it validates you as a parent by not assuming you’re an igmo since you’re in the spot you’re in. Fourth, it offers empathy to the person who is seeking help and desperately trying to find a solution to their problem.
Leaving my friend that afternoon, I not only felt heard but encouraged, empathized with, prayed for, and refreshed. Isn’t this what we all long for with our most treasured of friends? It seems ludicrous to think otherwise, yet more times than I care to recall, I’ve come away from a conversation having felt ridiculed, challenged, put down, a less than, and an igmo all rolled into one! For me to humbly ask a friend for advice, in my opinion, is a compliment to my friend. It conveys that this friend is admired, looked up to, been in a similar situation where they can empathize and offer help. I cannot fathom why anyone would respond in any other way but with grace and honor.
My challenge to you: the next time a friend shares her personal dilemma with you, consider her thoughts and feelings. Listen to her with respect and empathy. Weigh your words carefully before pontificating your thoughts. And as a respected pastor of mine once said, ‘while listening (to the person speak), I pray silently to God asking for His wisdom to share rather than my own’.