A couple of years ago, I found myself in an all to familiar scene. Our children were in bed, end of the day tasks completed and my wife and I sat together for a few moments of peace before we called it a day. As I tried to read, my wife shared the events of her day. When she told me about a particular problem I laid down my book, and began to tell her how to solve it. Upon finishing, I returned to my book and waited for the usual acquiescence to my wisdom. This time it never came. Instead she pushed my book down and said “I wish you wouldn’t pretend to help. Telling me what to do without listening is not helping.” There was much more to the story than I had assumed. My advice would have made the situation worse.
Unfortunately this scene plays out too often in ALL of our lives. We perceive a problem and assume we’re helping by pointing it out or telling someone else how to fix it. It fills us with warm fuzzy feelings of accomplishment and faithfulness. Our conscience is at peace because “we did something.” It’s not our fault if they don’t listen or take our advice. We helped, and now it’s their turn. After all, “God helps those who help themselves,” right?
Is it even possible to be more sanctimonious than that?
Our lives are made up of countless experiences, decisions and reactions. Sometimes our experiences are similar enough that what works for me will work for you. But no matter how similar we appear…our lives, experiences and situations are different. We come across as insincere and uncaring when we don’t take the time to walk in their shoes, to be in a genuine helpful relationship with them.
We are all in relationship with each other. Some are good and helpful. Some are worthless and hurtful. In a genuine christian relationship, we share our journeys and experiences. We learn from each other and both of our relationship’s with God deepens. We don’t come across as judgmental, giving the impression that we care more about things being done our way than we care about the person. Throughout his ministry, Jesus cared for people first. When the woman was about to be stoned for her sins (John 8:1-11), Jesus showed concern for her not her actions. In that relationship she found forgiveness and the opportunity for a deeper relationship with God.
If we really want to be helpful, then we have to get involved. We have to get in a real genuinely helpful relationship. It’s not enough to say “this is what you should do.” Truth be told, unless you really in relationship…you don’t know. Even Jesus took time to listen to the blind man seeking healing (Luke 18:35-43) when he asked him “What do you want me to do for you?”
These days when my wife begins telling me about a problem I’ve learned to ask, “Ok, how can I help?” before I simply start giving advice.